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Axis Music has 18 students, ranging from six to 18 years old, and a long waiting list.Getty Images/iStockphoto

The gift: Creating Axis Music

The reason: To provide music education to children in social housing

When Judith Manger was pursuing graduate studies in music in the United States, she volunteered at a free music program for children in an at-risk neighbourhood.

The program was so inspiring that after Ms. Manger graduated and returned to Toronto, she wanted to set up something similar. That led to the creation of Axis Music in 2010, a non-profit organization that offers free violin, cello and piano lessons to children living in social housing. "I saw that the differences in learning opportunities can drastically influence young people's development. And so that was one of the reasons why I wanted to found the program," she said.

Axis Music has 18 students, ranging from six to 18 years old, and a long waiting list. It offers instruction from professional musicians, trips to concerts and talks from poets and songwriters. While lessons are free, students must commit to regular attendance, practice and punctuality. Funding comes mainly from the Toronto and Ontario Arts Councils as well as individual donations and gifts from music stores.

Ms. Manger has enrolled in law school at the University of Toronto but she is determined to keep the program going. "Right now I'm juggling both," she said. "But Axis Music is my priority so I'm trying to make it work as well."

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