On October 27, 2011, award-winning Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan and the Wolverton Foundation opened a permanent music school that will offer free music education to vulnerable youth.

Sparked by the influence of music in her life, Sarah McLachlan had long dreamed of opening a free music school for inner-city youth. Her vision first took shape with the creation of the Sarah McLachlan Foundation in 1999 and the 2002 opening of the Sarah McLachlan Music Outreach program (SMMO), in collaboration with Arts Umbrella. The SMMO program operated out of a 6000 square foot church servicing 269 students from inner city schools, who wouldn’t otherwise have access to music programs. The need for a permanent home was critical to expand the program and provide access to more children in an enhanced facility.

“SoM has been an amazing success,” says Sarah McLachlan. “We have been able to reach hundreds of young people and provide them with the space and the tools they need to express themselves. Arts Umbrella has been instrumental in helping us turn our vision into a reality. Now, thanks to the Wolverton Foundation, we have the opportunity to take the school to the next level by having a permanent home that the students can call their own.”

In 2009, Sarah McLachlan Music Outreach and the Wolverton Foundation forged a partnership built on aligned goals: to help Vancouver’s inner-city youth to find their voice and build their confidence through music.

“These kinds of partnerships have an enormous impact on our communities and our children,” declared Lisa Wolverton, Executive Director of the Wolverton Foundation. “We are enabling SoM to become a more sustainable arts organization and they in turn are able to impact more children in Vancouver with their music programs, providing them with opportunities for success.”

After searching for the perfect space for nearly one year, the Wolverton Foundation found a 35,000 square foot space in a concrete building located near Main Street in Vancouver, BC. Following an extensive six-month renovation, 16,000 square feet of the former bowling alley was transformed into a state-of-the-art facility complete with soundproof studios and lesson rooms, a performance space, ample storage, a lunchroom, office and staff room. The new space – which was designed with the input of students – has the capacity to reach out to more youth ranging from grades four to twelve. On October 27, The Wolverton Foundation will host an evening of celebration to mark the official opening of the Sarah McLachlan School of Music in the brand new facility.

The Sarah McLachlan School of Music is a public/private partnership that was supported by the City of Vancouver, which generously awarded a $100,000 infrastructure grant for the renovation.

“For all of us, our work is not yet done,” says Dona Wolverton, Founder of the Wolverton Foundation. “I urge all of you who have the ability to step forward and create these kind of partnerships with your communities and make a difference in people’s lives. We all benefit from this kind of philanthropy as we invest in our own backyard.”