Concert benefits young musicians

A group of eight people pose for a photo.
Together after the concert at St. Simon’s are, from left, Thaanya Aswathaman, Kathleen Penny, Meredith Hall, Patricia Parr, Andrea Boliero, Yanika Gauthier, John Loosemore and John Sheard.
 on December 1, 2016

Canadian soprano Meredith Hall was joined by a stellar lineup of singers and musicians at a benefit concert at St. Simon the Apostle, Bloor Street on Oct. 15. The evening raised funds for Reaching Out Through Music, a program that enriches the lives of children and their families in the nearby neighbourhood of St. James Town.

Ms. Hall was joined onstage by singer Thaanya Aswathaman, 12, a resident of St. James Town and a member of the Reaching Out Through Music program. “Music brings joy and takes me to another world,” she said. “Music is God’s gift.”

Other performers included pianists Patricia Parr, Kathleen Penny, John Sheard and Marjorie Wiens, Colombian clarinetist Felip Jiminez Murillo and singer Yanika Gauthier. The concert was attended by more than 200 people and raised ?????

St. Simon’s has served as Reaching Out’s anchor location for the past nine years. The program provides musical and social opportunities for children who live in St. James Town, one of the most densely-populated and ethnically diverse communities in North America.

“Reaching Out Through Music was conceived in five minutes in a pew at St. Simon’s,“ says John Loosemore, the program’s founding director. The idea came after a memorial service at the church at which Kirkland Adsett, the music director and organist at the time, played and Canadian mezzo-soprano Jean Stilwell sang “Ave Maria.”

“Jean was a friend and Kirk was a stranger to me before the service that day in October of 2007,” recalls Mr. Loosemore. “The three of us were chatting and I said to Kirk that there was a kids’ choir out there in those towers.”

The apartment buildings in nearby St. James Town are home to many young families with children. Many are immigrants for whom English is a second language.

Reaching Out Through Music provides opportunities for the children to perform individually or in choirs. The program offers lessons in piano, guitar, violin, music theory, composing and arranging. Over the past nine years, it has served hundreds of children.

“We’ve been fortunate over the years to have the support of world-renowned musicians of the calibre of Jean Stilwell, Patricia Parr and Meredith Hall,” he says. “Their lives demonstrate the way in which music from an early age can shape lives. Jean literally learned to sing at her mother’s knee, in the choir at Grace Church-on-the-Hill. Patricia’s career as a chamber musician speaks to the power of collaboration and teamwork. Meredith spent a lot of time early in her singing career teaching and mentoring inner-city children.”

Reaching Out Through Music raises money through benefit concerts but relies heavily on the financial support of individuals, corporations and foundations to fund its operations. For more information, visit


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