Telegraph-Journal -- September 5, 2019
SAINT JOHN • After years of watching cruise ships come and go from Saint John's harbor front, Ken MacLeod had an idea: a concert for New Brunswickers on a cruise ship.
The Sistema New Brunswick president and CEO said the idea had been percolating in the back of his head for years as he considered different ways to get people interested in one of the country's most successful social music programs.
After months of planning, the Sistema NB Children's Orchestra will give a concert unlike anything it's done before.
On Oct. 29, 300 people will board the Anthem of the Seas, anchored for the day in Saint John for an excursion filled with champagne, gourmet food and a show put on by some of the province's best young musicians.
"It's going to be like a Las Vegas stage for these kids," said MacLeod. "It's going to be unlike anything we've ever done before."
Teaching kids excellence
With the goal of levelling the playing field for musical instruction, Sistema offers three hours of instruction, five days a week for kids across the province who otherwise would not have been able to access elite-level teachers.
Entering its 10th year, the program's first graduates have earned a handful of scholarships to some of the country's most prestigious music schools.
But the program doesn't come without its costs, and MacLeod has had to get creative through the years.
This might just be his boldest idea yet.
Knowing the right people.
The idea came to a head when MacLeod approached IG Wealth Management's Peter O'Neill about the logistics of pulling a concert like this off.
With Saint John's growing cruise ship industry, MacLeod said he thought it was the perfect opportunity to try something new.
O'Neill then reached out to Saint John Mayor Don Darling, who had made a contact with Royal Caribbean International last year as one of the city's most frequent cruise line visitors.
Darling made some calls and eventually set up a meeting for MacLeod to plead his case.
"I went into the meeting thinking I was going to have to sell the idea," said MacLeod. "But what I quickly realized was they had already decided they wanted to do it, and the conversation was all focused on what we needed to do to make it happen."
All funds raised from the event will go back to Sistema, said IG Wealth Management division director Andy Lodge,
"It's an opportunity for people to give back to a great charity, but it will also give them a mini experience onboard this extremely impressive ship," he said.
With 10 New Brunswick centres spanning urban, rural and reserve grounds, MacLeod said the program continues to follow its original mantra of engaging children who otherwise would have been left out.
Saint John is home to one of the province's largest centres, serving more than 250 kids from all five of the city's priority neighbourhoods.
"I think we're just a few years away from a major international artist who got their start from this program," said Darling.
A full day excursion
The show will take place on the Anthem of the Seas, a near $1billion cruise ship that made her maiden voyage in 2015.
The five-hour event will include an on-board champagne reception, lunch prepared by the ship’s chefs in the Grande Dining Room, small-group guided tours and a final presentation from the Sistema NB Children's Orchestra in the Royal Theatre.
The show will also be attended by cruise ship passengers.
Individual tickets are available for $200, with a $160 charitable tax receipt. Sponsorship opportunities also allow interested businesses to sponsor a table for $1,500, which comes with six seats, a ship tour and program acknowledgement. Event sponsors, priced at $5,000, comes with tickets for a table of 10, a VIP ship tour and a commemorative plaque.
"This will be one of the most unique fundraisers many of these folks will ever attend," said Darling. "I was just thrilled they would open up their ship, which is not normal or easily done."