Saint James Music Academy

East Vancouver , BC

The music therapy program at St James Music Academy provides support to at-risk children and youth living in the downtown east side of Vancouver. The financial support from Music Heals allows the music therapist to engage in 1:1 sessions with children who require more personalized support than group classes can offer. The music therapist is better able to create an individualized session plan that fits the unique needs of each child. Children who access the music therapy program may have had experiences with trauma, mental health challenges such as depression or anxiety, behavioural issues, or diagnoses such as ASD, ADHD, or FAS, among others. Through the Exploring Music program, they can be supported in expressing and processing some of these challenges with songwriting, improvisation, or specially adapted music lessons. The music therapy program also offers the opportunity for children to form positive attachments, and to engage in success-oriented experiences that can help to develop a positive sense of self worth. Approximately 20 children were served in the music therapy program this year.


The music therapy program at St James Music Academy serves at-risk children and youth between the ages of 7-18 living primarily in the Downtown Eastside area of Vancouver. Most come from low income families, and many live in social housing or are precariously housed in an unstable rental market. Some have experienced trauma, loss of a close family member, or have a developmental disability. Some of the children are in foster care, or are recent arrivals to Canada as refugees.

The majority of the students live in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) Oppenheimer district. The remainder live in Strathcona, Hastings Sunrise, or Grandview-Woodlands.



From SJMA:

“Piper, was referred to the music therapy program at Saint James Music Academy after experiencing some instability in her personal life. When she first arrived, she was very soft spoken and made little eye contact. She appeared to be unsure of herself, often reflecting questions back to her teacher rather than answering herself.

As she began working with the music therapist, it was discovered that Piper had always wanted to learn how to play the piano, but had never before had the opportunity. The music therapist supported Piper in beginning to develop her relationship with the instrument. Through adapted music lessons as well as collaborative improvisation, Piper began to explore her musical creativity.

At first, Piper approached the piano timidly, playing very softly and with hesitation. As sessions progressed, Piper’s confidence grew. She began to play with more strength and self assurance. Reflecting this musical change, Piper also began to come out of her shell in class, sharing more about her life with the music therapist, and appearing more comfortable and relaxed. Moving forward, music therapy sessions will continue to provide Piper the change to build her confidence and positive sense of self.”

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