Montreal

Tapping into young musical talent in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve

Garage à Musique, a community centre in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, gives youth in the community tools to keep them from falling through the cracks.

Community centre in Montreal's east end offers free music classes and other services to neighbourhood youth

Zachary Monette has been going to the Garage à Musique for five years. He plays on an adapted guitar. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

Zachary Monette doesn't go a day without playing his lap steel guitar.

His dexterity is not as developed as others, so the adapted instrument allows the 20-year-old to play with other young musicians at Garage à Musique, a community centre in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

Founded in 2009, Garage à Musique is all about giving youth in the community the tools to keep them from falling through the cracks.

Monette started attending the centre when he was 15.

Five years later, he asked to be a volunteer at the Garage so he could continue playing his guitar.

This year's concert will be his fourth. He'll be playing in the Combo Pop Jazz Group.

"I'm in my own space," Monette said, describing how it feels to be on stage.

Free services and programs 

The Garage à Musique offers everything from homework help, access to social workers, and of course, music classes for kids.

"We're close to families … We can deal with major problems, like learning disorders, developmental problems, autism, child abuse and neglect," said Dr. Gilles Julien, social pediatrician and president of the Dr. Julien Foundation which helps fund the Garage.

All of the Garage's services are free.

About 800 young people visit the specialized social pediatrics centre in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve each week.

"Music is major here because it's so powerful," said Dr. Julien.

Taking centre stage

Teacher Sophie Pinard, left, and the Vocal Ensemble rehearse the Bon Jovi medley they'll perform at Wednesday night's concert. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

Secondary V student Megan Bourdon describes herself as sometimes shy. But since she started spending time at the Garage à Musique four years ago, she says she's had an easier time coming out of her shell.

She says singing helps her express herself.

"When I come [to the Garage], it makes me happy because I don't stress anymore."

Bourdon is part of the Garage's vocal ensemble and is one of 60 children and teens who'll be performing Wednesday night in the community centre's big show.

The young musicians and singers will share the stage with some of their music teachers and professional rockers Band on Tour.

"There's so much commitment … it shows already that it's going to be a success this night. Everyone is really into it and I'm really proud to be a part of this project," said Fred Lebel, one of the singers with Band on Tour.

In a Garage first, the young performers will play a rock symphony showcasing classics like AC/DC, Bon Jovi, U2 and Led Zeppelin.

The Combo Pop Jazz group practises Rage Against the Machine for the June 12 concert. They've spent weeks rehearsing. (CBC)

Singing teacher Sophie Pinard said playing an instrument and singing gives the kids confidence.

"They're really shy and … sometimes after one year, they have friends and they can sing in front of people."

The young musicians and singers perform Wednesday, June 12 at 7 p.m. at Théâtre Denise-Pelletier in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

Tickets are $50, with proceeds going to the Garage à Musique.

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