Jim Byrnes

Jim Byrnes, who as a five year old prodigy was playing piano, discovered and, by the age of 13, was proficient in the classical guitar.

The renowned classical blues guitarist Jim Byrnes will perform at a benefit on Friday, January 16 at 7:30 p.m. at St. James,’ 303 East Cordova Street.

The Academy feels most fortunate Jim has chosen the Academy for the venue as his way of “pay-back” for the inspiration and training he was given as a child.

The concept of a music school in and for Downtown Eastside children was in its genesis two years ago. Today, the Saint James Music Academy is a flourishing, exciting scene for about 50 young musicians (aged 6-12) now being trained in classical violin, cello, piano, guitar, viol and choir.

All the children were recommended by their public school administrators as individuals thought to possess the interest and abiity to learn and enjoy. The 50 students all reside within the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood and most come from financially disadvantaged, single parent families.

Taught by professionally-trained musicians, the syllabus is based on the Royal Conservatory of Music with not only the learning of the instruments but with music theory included. Nearly all students completed the first year, with most returning to continue their exposure to the arts. The program is designed not only to give students the opportunity to learn music and train, but also to build their self-confidence, meet other people with interests similar to their own, and to learn in a group environment.

Violin practice at the Saint James Music Academy at St. James’. The music school is beginning its third year with 50 students. (Chris Lo photography)

As funding for the Academy is solely through private donations, costs have escalated substantially in the last year. Concert tickets may be purchased in advance (highly recommended) from St. James,’ at 604-685-2532.