“It couldn’t have come at a better time”

A surprise gift from J.D. Irving Ltd. will result in dozens of children in Sistema NB gaining first-time access to online training now available.

Although faculty from the 10 Sistema NB centres throughout the province are mounting an intensive effort to remain connected to the 1,200 children in their program, many children had no device or internet. Many of their peers continued to advance through individual and group coaching, but too many students were excluded.

“This couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Ken Macleod, CEO of the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra (NBYO).  

Robert Irving, a friend and supporter of NBYO’s Sistema NB program since its inception in 2009, reached out to learn how Sistema NB was dealing with the effects of the pandemic. 

“We arranged to “meet,” and demonstrate one of our virtual music classrooms in action,” said Mr. MacLeod. But ‘meeting’ has a whole new meaning during a pandemic.

When Jon Astley, Sistema NB Moncton Centre Director and French horn Teaching Artist, and Mr. MacLeod arrived at the JD Irving Ltd. office in Moncton, they filled out a health questionnaire, had their temperature taken, and were reminded of social distancing protocols being followed. 

Then, by computer, Mr. Astley linked in 14 of his French horn students, to demonstrate the capacity Sistema NB has developed to engage and instruct the children. Like all teaching artists from across the province, Mr. Astley meets with the French horn class 3-4 times every week to continue the students' journey and pursuit of musical excellence.

Online class at J.D. Irving Ltd. by Jonathan Astley (Click here to view)

Mr. Irving shared his appreciation for the many community organizations who are caring and serving in these unprecedented days. One of his chief concerns, he said, is that valuable organizations might lack the resources they need to help.  

Then on behalf of JD Irving Ltd, he presented Mr. MacLeod with a cheque for $25,000 for Sistema NB.

‘’We were completely surprised and overjoyed.  And full of gratitude for Mr. Irving’s generosity and caring,” said Mr. MacLeod.

“What Mr. Irving didn’t know is that I have been trying to solve a particular challenge for several weeks. We now had a path forward.”

“Eliminating the isolation of children who otherwise are left out of much of mainstream society is one key to the impact Sistema NB has in a child’s life,” said Mr. MacLeod. “But with COVID-19 and the closure of schools, many of the children we serve are feeling even more isolated.”

Mr. MacLeod said that the impact of isolation and the desire to see the kids continue to gain ground together drove the organization and its 58 Teaching Artists to a rapid transition to online instruction as groups and individuals.

“A big challenge, however, was that many of our students had neither a device or internet service at home.” 

“What Mr. Irving’s gift means is that not only can we continue our music education programs for the children we serve, but we can also close the technology gap for dozens more children who now can stay connected to their peers and continue to develop their skills.”

“On behalf of the children, youth, families and communities we serve, thank you!”



Ken MacLeod, President/CEO