The Ensemble de Violoncelles de Montréal offers free equipment and music lessons to children who may never have had the opportunity to play.
Six-year-old Amaka Idaboh was the first-ever student to apply to the program two years ago. Today, the freshman plays the cello at college level and even released her first song called “I love my Barbie doll.”
“I don’t know how I could have afforded to pay for these kinds of lessons with the experienced instructors she has, if it weren’t for the generosity of the foundation,” said her mother, Joan Idaboh.
Aside from banging on the piano keys, her daughter had never played an instrument. When the family moved from Nigeria to Montreal in 2018, Joan didn’t even know the cello existed.
“Before coming to Canada, I mean, I had heard of the violin. I had heard of the guitar. I had never, ever, ever seen a cello,” the mother told Global News.
When Amaka was four years old, the family could not afford daycare in Montreal. The mother and daughter were staying at home together when a neighbor suggested that a four-year-old child audition for a new group, the Montreal Cello Ensemble.
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The Montreal Cello Ensemble offers Montreal children a full scholarship and the opportunity to learn and play with cellists Geneviève Guimond and Gary Russell of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.
Guimond told Global News that Idaboh is the exact child the program is trying to reach.
“A kid who has this enormous talent and this enormous ability and something that he probably wouldn’t have sought on his own.”
Idaboh auditioned at the age of four and was “thrilled” with the cello, according to her mother.
“I saw the glint in his eyes and I was like, okay, that’s good,” Joan said.
His teachers said he was not just a glimmer, but a natural talent from the start.
“I remember the wonderful audition she did,” Russell said. “She is clearly a performer and she sang beautifully in tune.”
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Idaboh was one of 15 children chosen from 100 auditions. Now the freshman practices almost every day and plays with the set once a week on Saturdays.
“It’s just awesome,” she said of the cello, adding, “There are so many songs to play.”
Idaboh’s mother is continually surprised by her daughter’s talent, joking that she doesn’t come from a musical family.
“It can’t be me, it can’t be his father. I guess she was born with it,” she laughed.
The six-year-old girl dreams of one day becoming “an expert at gambling and making money” to provide for her future children.
“Like, if my kids want hot dogs, I’ll buy them for them,” she said.
For now, Idaboh plans to write more songs and encourage other children to play the cello.
“It’s hard, but it’s fun to learn.”
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