‘We are one darn lucky community to have this program’: mayor

They play instruments and they sing too! Young members of the Sistema Tobique/Perth-Andover Centre orchestra gave a choral performance of When You Believe during the spring concert held at Andover Elementary School on April 11.  PHOTO: CORINNE FITZHERBERT/THE VICTORIA STAR

CORINNE FITZHERBERT -- THE VICTORIA STAR (April 18, 2018 printed edition)

Don Matheson says three things happen at every Sistema NB concert.

“You’re moved. You’re amazed. You’re N.B. proud,” said Matheson, chief operating officer of the program, which provides free, daily orchestral instruction to children.

Matheson was reacting to the Sistema Tobique/Perth-Andover Centre musicians as they filled the Andover Elementary School gymnasium with soaring sound at their spring concert on April 11.

Perth-Andover Mayor Marianne Bell, also a vocalist and musician, couldn’t agree more.

“We are one darn lucky community to have this program!” She said as she took in the concert.

Family and community members filled the gymnasium to hear the spring performance. The combined orchestra now numbers 44 young musicians. The Sistema program came to the area six years ago, and its original members have grown into accomplished cellists and violinists, closely followed by those who joined the orchestra in subsequent years.

Matheson heaped praise on the musicians and their teachers. Dave Halpine, centre director and violin instructor, has been joined by Alexandra Pires Duro of Portugal as a second teaching artist. Tammy Bailey and Kim Halpine are educational assistants with the program.

Matheson said partnerships and collaborations within the community have led to Sistema’s success. Originally, Tobique First Nation invited Sistema to be established there. Mathe-son said last year Chief Ross Perley suggested the program could reach even more children from Tobique First Nation and Perth-Andover if it was located at Andover Elementary School.

“So we’re proud to have the partnership that has allowed us to grow the program,”he said.

Children from Mah-Sos School are bussed daily to Andover Elementary to take part in the after-school sessions.

There are now nine Sistema centres in the province with the most recent addition being Fredericton.

“Of all nine centres, this centre has the highest retention rate from start of year to April,”Matheson said.

The Presto Ensemble, comprising the most experienced musicians, has played across the province.

“They’ve performed for thousands of people at our annual Pops NB Festival in the summer,”he said.“They’re becoming very,very accomplished.”

The Andante Ensemble includes the orchestra’s newest members. They played Tadpole’s Tale, Mr. G’s One Finger March and Obertura al Aire.

Sistema members are not only musicians but vocalists too. They treated the audience to a choral performance of When You Believe from the movie The Prince of Egypt.

The Allegro ensemble is comprised of second-year students with some first years and they played the Kreutzer Study and Chorale.

“They are an absolute treat to be with every day,”said Halpine.

The Presto Ensemble played Pomp and Circumstance,the William Tell Overture and the Hallelujah Chorus.Halpine noted their performance of Pomp and Circumstance during the Victoria County Music Festival caught the attention of school staff. That led to the ensemble being asked to play at the Southern Victoria High School graduation ceremony in June.


Halpine noted Sistema musicians did well at the Victoria County Music Festival held from April 2-7 in Perth-Andover. Sistema recieved the outstanding ensemble award and members went home with 17 gold medals and 20 silver medals.

Four of the gold medals were for solos and the performers shared the musical pieces that earned them the honours. The soloists included Ashley Hudson, Maegan Bailey, Aaron Halpine and Gabby Swazey.

Gabby Swazey, a soloist from the Sistema Tobique/Perth-Andover Centre orchestra, received a gold medal for her performance during the Victoria County Music Festival. The young musician performed at the spring concert on April 11.


Halpine said it was exciting to see members of the orchestra working so hard to prepare for the music festival.

“Two of our soloists are in their first year which is very, very special,” said Halpine. “Three of our soloists played with Aaron (Halpine) on the cello. He was their accompanist.”

Mayor Bell accompanied Aaron Halpine on the piano as he played his gold medal piece.

Accomplished young musician Aaron Halpine gave a repeat of his gold medal performance from the Victoria County Music Festival during the Sistema Tobique/Perth-Andover Centre spring concert. 


As thanks for her support, Bell was presented with a bottle of maple syrup made by the Halpine family. Bell was also given one of the paper maché violins new Sistema members make to practice their playing and resting positions before they are given their real instruments. It was signed by Sistema members.

“It’s quite a privilege to play with these musicians,” said Bell. “This is a wonderful thing to have in our town.”