Volume:9, Issue: 3

Dec. 27, 2017

Evaluation study in partnership: Music garage (Foundation Dr. Julien)
Piché, Anne-Marie [about]

KEYWORDS: Collective practice of music, learning, mentoring, tutoring, participation.

ABSTRACT: In 2009, Music Garage project  (Garage à Musique) was started in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighborhood to provide a unique program in collective practice of music in youth orchestras and a specialized school access center. This paper presents the process and the results of the global implementation of this project as it evolved, including the opinions of its and satisfaction levels of the participating children and their parents. Perceptions of implementation, activities, and changes observed are also discussed.

Started as a pilot project in 2009, the Music Garage Project for the Young (GAM - Garage a musique pour les jeunes) is the first specialized offering of the Centre de pédiatrie sociale en communauté network of services, set in place by Hélène (Sioui) Trudel, Senior Legal Advisor and General Director at the Foundation Dr. Julien. Based in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, a Montreal neighborhood holding the highest concentration of children who are not ready for school (over 42.3%; EQDM, 20123) amongst poverty-related problems; this unique blend of integrated preventive interventions proposes a 3-pronged strategy (or three major areas of concern addressed by the program) to accompany vulnerable youth (0-17 years old) to respect the CRC as a whole document by:

  1. Offering free music education based on the ideas of collective pedagogy.
  2. Providing individualized and adapted educational support at CAS (Centre Accès Scolaire).
  3. Insuring evaluation-orientation and follow-up by the interdisciplinary team at a social pediatric clinic.

During the time of evaluation, over 700 children and adolescents have participated in the project for at least a 3-month session; half of them receiving the attention and care of PSC services.

The "Garage" is an inter-sectorial, interdisciplinary intervention reflecting Dr. Julien’s social pediatrics in the community approach (involving medicine, law, and social work), together with collective practice of music and a center for school access. GAM is the first of Quebec’s networks of Centre de pédiatrie sociale en communauté (CPSC) to offer a specialized approach although all 20 centers across Quebec do offer arts-based interventions of different kinds. CPSC-GAM is now one of 3 "centers-experts" of the Foundation, adding to the first created in 1997 (CPSC-AED, also in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve) and second (CPSC-Côte-des-Neiges; 2003).

Photo by Mathieu Deshayes, photographer

Preventive as well as curative, the GAM works with children and adolescents (0-17 years old), their families and networks to give them access to developmental and educational opportunities they are generally lacking in their environment. The prioritized groups were 220 boys and girls aged 6-11 and 100 aged 12-17, living and studying in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

These groups of participants also targeted youth who have been identified with learning and/or behavior disorders, who have been involved with the justice system or with the Youth Center (Centre Jeunesse); referred by the medico-social team at the clinic AED; at-risk or in the situation of being excluded from school.

Over half of the families that are being followed by the Center are composed of two unemployed parents (58%) living on welfare for the majority or are single-parent led. It has been identified that almost half of the children from this neighborhood lack the stimulation and necessary developmental support to be ready for school at age 5 (42.3%; EQDEM, 2012).  Hochelaga also has a high crime rate, often involving parents, and youth can easily get enrolled in drug trafficking and drug use.


Short-term objectives of the GAM are for participating youth to: ameliorate self-esteem, develop a positive sense of identity, maintain pro-social relationships, reinforce emotional regulation, increase aptitudes to express oneself and communicate feelings, improve problem-solving skills, develop fine motor skills, concentration, perseverance, sociability, and discipline to perform at school.

In the school environment, GAM music education provides tools to increase a sense of belonging in children, reduce suspensions and exclusions, and improve children’s motivation.

Mid-term objectives also include: the development of a sense of affiliation to a pro-social group, establishment of a constructive social network and identification with positive adult and peer models, reduction of conflicts with peers, reduction of violent behavior, improvement of academic results, and diminution of school dropout rates.

Long-term, the CPSC-GAM aims to see diminished rates of DYP signals in their population, diminution of justice related problems, diminution of the number of kids interested and enrolled in antisocial activities (gang-related or not).

Social pediatrics in community approach: countering social determinants

Broadly, the Garage was set in place to actively prevent juvenile crimes and antisocial behaviors in its youth population, involving a consortium of social enterprises and community partners. To address the underlying and structural causes of this phenomena of social disinsertion (Bedard, 19994), or exclusion, affecting generation after generation in this part of the city, the CPSC-GAM approach started to develop a set of integrated tools conceived around the reduction of toxic stress in children’s environment.

Their approach is based on a structural and complex comprehension of health and psychosocial problematics such as neglect, behavior disorders, victimization, and juvenile crime. Community Social Pediatrics or PSC considers the root of these problems to stem not only from neuro-physio-psychological or genetic dysfunction; but also from social inequities repeating themselves over generations and ultimately taking away from children and families opportunities to reach education standards, find secure employment, live well, and love well.

In this view, environmental determinants (physical, mental, emotional) combined with a lack of basic life conditions are at the source of short and long-term problems observed in children; leading to health and development difficulties, school and social dropout, isolation, low self-esteem and confidence; lack of self-control, depression, marginalization, and lack of positive identity, among others.

According to Garage founders and its PSC approach, a trans-systemic and inter-sectorial approach is essential to identify and eliminate toxic stressors to break the dynamic of despair, isolation and breaks in the social fabric. Tools such as collective apprenticeship of music aim to provide children (from very young ages) with a sense of purpose and competency, and to accompany them in a caring, highly benevolent web of adults (including parents, other family members, music teachers, and educators). Integrating the latest discoveries in neurosciences and education, which support the effects of an intensive and regular program of music learning within a youth group, the GAM’s main objective was to strengthen these youth’s general learning abilities, as they learn an instrument (or singing), and also to give them an opportunity to belong and associate themselves with a group of youths of related ages. Learning respect, teamwork, rigor and discipline in a caring setting led by the adults trained in this approach is another important objective of the GAM.

In order to receive music lessons and school tutoring services adapted to the child, a concerted action plan is established during the first meeting with the child and his/her family. This process is called evaluation-orientation and involves a social pediatrician, a social worker and a lawyer-mediator (if needed), the child, his/her family, and all significant people inside or outside this family; and also, in conjunction with his/her school or daycare, community groups, CSSS or Youth Center, etc. A space of mutual learning, sharing of information and perceptions, comprehension and action (APCA) is then established and a reference to GAM is made depending on the child’s specific needs.

Evaluation study of CPSC-GAM 2012-2016

An evaluation of GAM’s implementation process was officially started in 2012 in partnership with Foundation Dr. Julien and its professionals, and was directed by Anne-Marie Piché, Professor of Social Work at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQÀM). The study, and the first phase of the project were supported by the National Crime Prevention Center (Ministry of Public Security, National Crime Prevention Strategy, and the Government of Canada), and Foundation Dr. Julien.

The main objectives of the evaluation were to examine how much the project was meeting the goals of its logic model, and how much it succeeded in reaching target youth groups in the population; and also to determine to what extent the provided activities met their short- and mid-term objectives. In addition, we wanted to document the bond and continuity of support available to participating youth in their development throughout the program, as well as to analyze the modalities of community partnerships that were established around the process of implementing GAM (schools, community youth and family organizations, among others).

An internal evaluation of GAM was started in April 2011 with the help of the study direction, and was followed up by this external evaluation during the period between April 2012 and March 2016. All three components of the GAM project were considered in the evaluation, for themselves but also to explore how much they integrated one to another: 1) evaluation and follow-up in social pediatric community clinic; 2) collective music apprenticeship; and 3) specialized school tutoring.

The final report and its summary present quantitative and qualitative5 outcomes of this process evaluation, challenges and lessons learned in implementing GAM. Also identified are the factors contributed to its success, perceptions of all participants, professional groups who have participated, and recommendations for future programs6


In five years, the study met and collected testimonies from 260 participants; amongst whom 57 participated in semi-structured interviews and focus groups with the principal researcher and assistants (24 children and youth, and 4 parents; 21 GAM professionals; 8 community organization partners). 203 surveys were collected in two phases of implementation and with two participant groups (133 parents and 70 youth aged 5-18).

The following methods were used to maximize participation and reach all groups: 1) participation surveys, 2) semi-structured interviews, 3) focus groups, 4) observation of activities at GAM, 5) participation in advising committee meetings, 6) access to GAM database.

A mixed-methods, exploratory evaluation study was used with the following objectives, derived from Canada's CNPC domains of evaluation questions: 1) describe youth participants and their families; 2) document intensity of activity offering and interest in participating in GAM activities; 3) describe and document implementation of activities and adaptations; 4) document resources that were needed and put in place in the implementation process to reach initial goals; 5) analyze how the enterprise consortium partnership worked together and managed activities together 6) extract the lessons learned in implementation challenges to improve and empower the program in its future delivery.

Analysis of the self-report surveys of participation: Parents & youth (2013-2016)

133-self- report participation surveys- parents (2013-2014):

70 self-report participation surveys- youth participants 5-18 y. old (2015-2016):


41% single-parent led families (46% both parents present)

Youth aged 5-18 years old; 66 % are 12-13 years old (Chomedey high-school); 50/50 boys and girls

Children aged 2.5 - 15 years old; 56.6 % girls; 48 % elementary school.  Quebecois francophone origin in majority living in Hochelaga.

81% originally from Quebec, 88% have French as their first language. All live in Hochelaga.

Over 55% registered more than 1 child in GAM

School, then parents, were principal sources of referral to GAM

Income below threshold of poverty (majority) - 23% have less than 10 K per year

77.1% had collective music lessons as only GAM activity; 5.7% reported using CAS tutoring service.

Motives to register child in GAM to learn music and socialize

45.7% registered since less than a year; 40% participated twice a week.

47% children seen in social pediatrics, yet 70% could not identify difficulties (individual or family life); 35% did not perceive school problems. When perceived, they were mostly learning disorders.

80% perceived at least one domain of positive change in their life since GAM participation. The following five changes observed by youth ranked the highest: concentration, perseverance, sociability, school motivation, and mastery of anger.


11% had been suspended or excluded from school in the past


93% did not report justice related problems while 7% reported having intimidated peers or committed acts of vandalism


83% did not report ever consuming alcohol while 17% did (at age 13)


91% did not report ever consuming drugs while 9% tried drugs at least once.


Main motives to participate and stay in GAM are: learning how to play an instrument and playing it, making friends and establishing positive relationships with GAM adults.

Themes drawn from the semi-structured interviews and focus groups with the young people, ages 6-18

An accessible space for socializing and learning together

The Garage was an attractive, fun place to learn and practice a musical instrument for children and youth we have met; a real passion for music has developed or had a chance to be actualized through offering free professional music courses every day at GAM.

Coming to this space, well located as it is close to their schools and homes, has become routine over the years and year-round, as many also participated in the summer music camp. Even if the Garage is perceived as a fun cool place to hang-around and meet new friends. Youth also perceived the emphasis on learning and rigor in practice of their respective musical instruments.

Finding one’s place and overcoming the challenges of learning

The challenge of learning an instrument is associated with the challenge of learning as part of a group, trying to reach harmony with individuals possessing various levels of experience, motivation, and commitment to work.

Youth have learned to work together to reach a common goal, which is to play well and ultimately, to give a great show at the annual concert.

This dimension of exigency, hard work, and discipline pays off, as youth themselves all mentioned feeling proud, capable, and more confident in their overall abilities; their self-image also improved in many cases.

Support of caring, encouraging adults who can focus on their positives without judging their occasional lapses or social difficulties, is also hugely important for them, as it stimulates them to persevere.

Themes drawn out of the semi-structured interviews and focus groups with GAM music teachers

Educational approach: pushing or following?

Interviewed teachers soon realized the importance of adapting their style and expectancies gradually, child by child, without leaving behind the promotion of excellence and perseverance.

This balance became better achieved as the program continued. A "non-constraining" approach was used from the beginning not to off-put marginalized youth, who have become allergic to any form of control or rules in their lives, and/or received very little supervision from their families.

However, a strong core belief in their potential has necessitated the addition of a specialized harmonic education approach in the last years, to also emphasize the importance of structure in music, as in life, to accomplish originally set goals.

Youth seem to appreciate this blend of "flexibility in approach and structure in the means"; and did see the difference in comparison with classical music formations or courses that would have otherwise refused them.

Parents perceived benefits of GAM for their children (From interviews and surveys)


Parents have a supporting role in the program: in fact, GAM was designed to also encourage them to become more involved in their children’s life’s, to make talents and efforts visible and encouraged.

Parents appreciate the program, and often have mentioned the importance of providing the space other than school to help the overall socialization process and every child with a learning disability to become more confident. They also appreciate meeting other parents at practices and concerts.

Themes drawn out of the semi-structured interviews with GAM’s community partners

Knowhow: working with families and children of the neighborhood

Community professionals working along with GAM have developed a close knowledge of youth and family mentalities and life-views for many years. They have developed strategies to detect and act with the breaks in attachments, stories of conflict and exclusion that lead to mistrust on the part of adults.

Establishing a solid trust relationship by accepting them as they are is the first key to improve other dimensions and help these youths trust themselves and succeed.

Not being off put by appearances or negative attitudes, having patience, and being able to spot the developmental aspects that were lacking in the trajectories of their clientele are essential to this work.

Inclusion: a common value



A shared management with flexibility


Including vulnerable youth that have learned not to believe in themselves in stimulating activities that are interesting for them and reach their culture allows the experience of lived successes.

Knowing how to influence without imposing, respecting to instill respect and teaching the importance of structure through more informal means. These are all strategies developed through the years to join with this population and involve them in change; which has also worked well in their cooperation with the GAM. 

As a program like GAM is built from the observation of needs, and context, community partners have needed to follow the implementation with a flexible attitude around changes made to improve services, address hidden needs or prioritize certain groups in the delivery. Over the years partner organizations have managed to follow this rhythm and reassess their involvement in the program but all maintained their involvement with GAM.


In less than 5 years, CPSC-GAM has managed to accomplish its objectives and has demonstrated innovation in prevention of juvenile crime and other psychosocial problems of modern youth. Based on a solid conceptual frame, explicitly formulating and operationalizing interventions that are developmental-based and founded on the latest neuropsychology findings about collective learning of music; the GAM was developed following a PSC protocol, whilst making necessary adjustments all along to better adapt to the needs of its participants.

A major adaptation involved the reformulation of the school tutoring component, which became CAS (Centre d'Accès Scolaire) in 2015. Realizing the very high number of children suffering from moderate to severe levels of learning disorders, often paired with complex family difficulties, the organization needed to design a specialized education program and hire appropriate resources to deliver it as regular after-school tutoring (still offered by Hochelaga based Je Passe Partout) was far from being sufficient. Also, the clinical support formula was redesigned on the GAM premises and involved hiring of three educators and psycho-educators to support young people with emotional or behavioral difficulties between-and-inside classes.

Victim of its success, the GAM has needed to double the number of hired music teachers (in comparison with the estimated at the beginning) as over 700 young people participate in the program every week. A move to a larger building, loaned by the City of Montreal, was also necessary to run activities and to get closer to secondary schools.

GAM is unique in its kind amongst other models involving collective apprenticeship of music for youth: it’s the only one that is structured around and using tools of social pediatrics; as such it incorporates developmental notions in its framework and daily interventions. It is also the only one that proceeds by clinical reference and follows-up progress of all registered youth participants. A screening avenue is also available, allowing for youth that are not known to the clinic but do have important difficulties to be identified and offered services. The clinics integrated and inter-sectorial services have also allowed many to gain accessibility to essential care whether for health and development, family needs or professional educational support, now almost absent from Montreal public schools. This fact is in coherence with the children’s rights (CRDC) base of PSC, stating that every one of them regardless of the effect of social determinants should benefit from global developmental support.

Photo by Mathieu Deshayes, photographer

1 This paper has first been published in On the Radar, a publication of the Center for Research on Children and Families (CRCF), October 2017, and is republished here with the permission from the original source.

2 Piché, Anne-Marie, Ph.D., Professor, School of Social Work, University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada.

3 Bellehumeur, P., & Desjardins, L. (2014). Enquête québécoise sur le développement des enfants à la maternelle (EQDEM) 2012.

4 Bédard, J. (1999). Familles en détresse sociale.Familles en détresse sociale : repères d'action. Sillery, Québec: A. Sigier.

5 Piché, Anne-Marie. (June, 2016). Rapport final de l'évaluation des processus de mise en œuvre du Garage à musique (Fondation du Dr Julien). (Final Report on Evaluation for Garage à Musique (Foundation Dr. Julien). Recherche financée par le Centre national de prévention du crime (CNPC-Sécurité publique, Gouvernement du Canada & Foundation du Dr Julien. (This research project has been funded by the National Crime Prevention Center, Public Security, Government of Canada, and Foundation Dr. Julien). Partenariat Fondation du Dr Julien et Service des partenariats et du soutien à l'innovation (SepSi) UQÀM. 268 p. (Foundation Dr. Julien and Partnership Department and Innovation Support experts).

6 Piché, Anne-Marie. (Juin 2016). Résumé exécutif de l'évaluation des processus de mise en œuvre du Garage à musique (Fondation du Dr Julien). Evaluation Overview and an Executive Summary of the project Garage à Musique (Fondation du Dr. Julien). 



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