Helping kids make their own music

[attach]4504[/attach]Sharon Hampson has spent her life performing songs for children. Now she is helping kids make their own music.

After watching kids perform a concert at the Church of St. Simon the Apostle in St. Jamestown last year, Hampson decided to join the group that organized it, Reaching Out Through Music.

“I really believe in the project and what they’re trying to do and I wanted to have an opinion on how it should be done,” said Hampson.

Since 2008, Reaching Out Through Music has been providing music lessons to kids aged 6 to 14 in the St. Jamestown area. The group’s aim is to give children a musical education at a minimal cost.

Involvement in the organization seems like a natural step for Hampson, who is a member of the internationally known troupe of children’s entertainers, Sharon, Lois and Bram.

“I filled my life bringing music into the lives of children and I think it’s immensely important,” said Hampson. “I know how much joy music has provided in my life and bringing it to young children has been a source of enormous pleasure.”

Hampson lends her name recognition to the cause and recently helped organize a fundraising concert on April 30. The majority of the proceeds went toward purchasing new violins, guitars and recorders for the children. Students learning to play the piano through the organization often have to practise at home using paper keyboards, according to Hampson.

“In some cases the instruments have been donated,” she said. “The children don’t have their own instruments for the most part and that’s part of what we like to fundraise for, to get instruments.”

Hampson was slotted to MC the event but, due to scheduling conflicts, bandmate Bram Morrison stepped up to fill the role. Hampson said she and Morrison were leaving for South Africa on June 26.

“I’m going with Bram to sing in Africa at a conference for about 350 childcare workers who take care of disadvantaged children around the country of South Africa,” she said. “We’re going to teach the caregivers how to bring joy and a positive experience, that’s fun through music and musical games, into their lives.”

Whether it’s Jamestown, South Africa or St. Jamestown in Toronto, children everywhere can learn more from music lessons than just how to sing or play an instrument. Hampson said they build character by learning about commitment and practice and, in the choir, contributing to something bigger than themselves.

“I really believe that music enriches the lives of children and it’s a gift that they can keep for the rest of their lives,” she said. “I’m happy to stand up for programs that do that sort of thing.”

Children and music have been the focal point of Hampson’s career for decades, even after Lois Lillenstein’s retirement from the group in 2000. Hampson said she and Morrison have since taken the performances back to the duo’s folksy roots, but that their latest gig is a bit out of the ordinary for them.

“Bram and I are doing something very unusual that we haven’t done in a long, long time and have never done together,” she said. “We’re doing … a house concert, which means a concert for adults.

“We haven’t sung for adults alone without their kids for 30 years.”