SOS Villa Maria marches in NDG to save the high school’s music program

The decision to end Villa Maria’s private music program came as a shock for students, teachers and parents when the announcement was made back in January. 

“We were devastated,” said Alfrede Lagrenade, voice and piano teacher in the program.

“It’s an awful decision, I had students crying in my class.”

The music program community has mobilized since then, creating SOS Villa Maria, a group of students, parents and teachers denouncing the high school’s decision. 

They’ve garnered more than 1,800 signatures on an online petition, and notably by celebrated musicians including Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Metropolitan Orchestre, Nathalie Choquette, Oliver Jones and Michel Rivard.

SOS Villa Maria organized a march that took place Saturday morning through the streets of NDG where more than 100 people showed up in solidarity. 

Spokesperson for SOS Villa Maria and parent, Pietro Mercuri, says they want the march to bring visibility to the fact that they’re “losing a piece of history.”

The program has been around 164 years. 

For students, the program is a place of comfort. 

“I go there every single day at lunch time because that’s what I like to do,” said Giuliana Rosa Mercuri, singer in the program. 

This was echoed by her peer Linnea Nguyen.

“This program was our place,” she said. “Singing is my hobby and much more than that and this program let me do that and make it part of my curriculum.”

SOS Villa Maria is hoping the high school administration will reconsider its decision.

“I’m hoping the administration will want to reach out and speak with the parents and the students with a real dialogue to come to some mutual agreement,” said Pietro Mercuri.

Nguyen is hopeful things will work in the group’s favour. 

“Even if we don’t get our program back, which we’re hoping we will, either way a lot of good things will come out of this,” Nguyen said.

In a statement to CJAD 800 News in February, Villa Maria said the decision to end the program at the end of June was final.