Over the past 20 years, The Minstrel Foundation for Music and Arts Advancement has funded over $2.5 million of music school programs, music camps, private lessons and university and college tuition for students with financial need. It started with the need in 1998 for a second music school in Regent Park. A group of volunteers dedicated to the Dixon Hall Music School (DHMS) who appreciated the role music plays in a young person’s education and personal development formed The Minstrel Foundation and raised the $250,000 of capital needed to launch the Regent Park School of Music (RPSM) and sustain its operations, initially in the basement of St. Paul’s Basilica. The RPSM became an important part of life in Regent Park and for years now has flourished on its own under a very capable Board and Management. In addition to our ongoing support to the DHMS and the RPSM, the Minstrel Foundation now supports a number of other programs including the University Settlement House Music School (since 2003), The Pia Bouman School of Ballet and Creative Movement (since 2006) and From Violence to Violins (since 2009). Within a couple of years of our founding, we helped DHMS and RPSM launch very popular summer music day camps and enabled their students to attend other programs such as Music at Port Milford, the Erin Gilmour Arts Camp, the RCM Summer Camp and the Canadian Opera Summer Camp. In 2003 we sponsored the DHMS overnight summer music camp, the first of a succession of camps we have underwritten for the DHMS that over the years has expanded to camps during March Break (since 2010), Christmas (since 2012) and a second summer week (2014). In 2003 we received CRA approval to offer scholarships so that students can continue their studies at the advanced level and awarded our first scholarships to RPSM students Andres Tucci Clarke and Thompson Egbo-Egbo. In 2006 we sent two students to the National Music Camp in Orillia. This past summer we sent 12 students.
Over the past 20 years, over 40,000 students have taken music lessons at our 3 inner city music schools and over 5,000 have attended either day summer camps or overnight camps at March Break, Christmas and in the summer. We have supplemented the music school lessons and music camps with private lessons with the likes of Gloria Saarinen and have seen students advance through the 10 grades at the Royal Conservatory of Music, go on to Community College and University. Today our graduates have occupations as diverse as teaching, information technology and the performing arts.
In recognition of 20 years of achievement, a Gala Celebration was held at Casa Loma on November 29th.