About Sistema Winnipeg

Sistema Winnipeg is a music program that changes lives. It is a daily, intensive, music education program that focuses on children with the fewest resources and greatest need. It delivers musical training to children after school for three hours a day, five days a week, at no cost to their families. Sistema Winnipeg encourages children to reach their full potential and inspires greater social change within the community.

Sistema Winnipeg is a partnership between the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO), Seven Oaks School Division and Winnipeg School Division. In 2017-18, the program engages 160 children in grades 1-8 at two ‘nucleos’ or school locations, Elwick School and King Edward School. Approximately 49% of Sistema Winnipeg students are Newcomers to Canada, and 36% come from an Indigenous background.

This program uses the power of ensemble music to dramatically change the trajectory of children’s lives, through philosophies of inclusion, teamwork, artistic excellence, intensity, mentorship, and community focus. Sistema Winnipeg offers a well-rounded, high quality music education, including musical training, yoga, healthy snacks, performance opportunities, social events and family engagement. Sistema continues to grow towards a full symphonic orchestra. Instruction in woodwind, brass and percussion instruments has been added to the existing orchestral strings programming.

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Since its inception in 2011, the WSO has worked with a researcher at the University of Manitoba to conduct an evaluative long-term study of Sistema Winnipeg. To date, the study has found a closing of the gaps between children’s standardized reading and mathematical achievement levels.  Instances of tardiness and absenteeism are significantly lower, and school suspensions have dropped dramatically.

Children are making gains in confidence, concentration, focus, communications skills, presence, pride, impulse control, identify and outgoingness.  Children are also making gains in making friends, general behavior, responsibility, contributing to household chores, teamwork, conflict resolution, decision-making, respect for people and property, cultural integration, sense of safety and lower stress levels.

Best of all, 100% of surveyed parents believe their child is more confident, and 98% are more optimistic about their child’s future.


The El Sistema (The System) model from Venezuela exploded on the orchestra scene only a few years ago. However, the model developed by Jose Abreu more than 40 years ago in poverty stricken neighbourhoods of Caracas, has already shown tremendous international success. The mission of the free El Sistema program philosophy is to promote the collective practice of music through symphony orchestras in order to help children and young people achieve their full potential and create social change in their community. As of today, more than 700,000 children and youth participate in the state-funded Venezuelan program every year.

Our Vision

Sistema Winnipeg’s long-term vision is to establish a network of Sistema programs in Winnipeg and throughout the Province of Manitoba, to offer the opportunity for social change through access to intensive and free music training for children and youth.

Sistema Winnipeg is enthusiastic about expansion of the program, given adequate and sustainable resources. Over the next six years, the program plans to double the number of enrolled students, as well as launch nucleos in neighbouring high schools to our existing sites.


If you are interested in sharing your time and talent with the Sistema Winnipeg program, please email a copy of your resume to sistema@wso.mb.ca. All teachers and volunteers must provide a current copy (less than 6 months) of a Criminal Record Check and Child Abuse Registry.


Interested in making a difference in a child’s life? Then consider donating to the Sistema Winnipeg program. Your donation will help give the gift of music to children in Winnipeg. By changing the life of a child today, you are investing in Winnipeg’s most challenged neighbourhoods for tomorrow.

The WSO is accepting donations of instruments in usable condition for Sistema Winnipeg. Instruments of interest include strings instruments, trumpet, trombone, French horn, flute, clarinet, oboe and orchestral percussion. Please contact sistema@wso.mb.ca with inquiries.

For questions or comments, please contact:
Brent Johnson, Education, Sistema & Community Engagement Manager
Email: bjohnson@wso.mb.ca

Jeffrey Acosta, Education & Sistema Coordinator
Email: jacosta@wso.mb.ca

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