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Community organizations collaborate to make the arts more accessible

Kajahni Tharmarajan | Fulcrum Contributor

DISCOVERY UNIVERSITY AND NAC Presents have teamed up to offer a unique musical experience for students who are homeless or from low income families.

Discovery University is a collaborative organization joining the efforts of the Ottawa Mission, the University of Ottawa, St. Paul University, and First Baptist Church of Ottawa. The program got its start in 2005 and has since provided free admission to university classes for hundreds of people who normally wouldn’t have access to them. The program offers humanity and social science courses along with necessary course materials, access to transportation through bus tickets, and meals.

NAC Presents is in its second year of production and focuses on bringing emerging and established Canadian music to the National Arts Centre. The university’s current collaboration with NAC Presents gives students in the Music and Popular Culture course the chance to attend various concerts from now until April 2013 and the opportunity to have a backstage meet-and-greet with some of the performers.

The brand new course is divided into two parts: Music and Popular Culture I during the fall semester and Music and Popular Culture II during the winter semester.

“When I first learned about Discovery University this past summer, I decided right away that it was something I would like to support in whatever manner I could,” said Jesse Stewart, professor of the Music and Popular Culture course, in an email to the Fulcrum.

“The students in the course seem to be enjoying it,” he continued. “I know I am.”

The performances bring course curriculum to life and complement the theory learned in class. This initiative parallels Discovery University’s other efforts such as a tour of Parliament Hill for political science students. Connecting course content with the sphere of Ottawa community life is the practical advantage of academic life that these students normally would not have access to.

“It removes barriers to access to education,” explained Discovery University program coordinator Jill Zmud. “It provides an avenue to step away from the challenges that some of the students may have experienced in order to acquire new knowledge, to express their opinion, to gain confidence, and finally to become active citizens in their community.”

“When we were approached by the Ottawa Mission, the University of Ottawa and the rest of the Discovery University team, it just seemed like a perfect fit,” said Simone Deneau, producer for NAC Presents.