Louis Bellemare joyfully accepting the ESTim award.

An ESTim award for Samajam

“Samajam!” Louis Bellemare was ecstatic when he heard his organization named as the winner of the ESTim award in the Arts and Culture Category. The awards ceremony, organized by Montreal East’s board of trade, the Chambre de commerce de l’Est de Montréal, took place May 8 in a fittingly festive atmosphere.

Samajam is the non-profit cultural and social economy organization with which the Port of Montreal has proudly partnered for the last four years. Its activities help youth develop a sense of belonging at their school. To create the magical mood that thrills and stimulates young people, Samajam musicians use music in the form of drumming, singing and dance.

The Samajam School Retention project is now considered the most important musical project combatting school dropout in Quebec. The organization operates in several areas of Quebec, including two schools, Irénée-Lussier and Saint-Clément, located in one of the Port’s neighbouring communities.

Special mission at École Irénée-Lussier

What makes Samajam’s role so special in this school is that the musicians are dealing with intellectually challenged students age 12 to 21.


“Do you feel the energy?” shouted Louis Bellemare, clapping his hands in time to the drums. “Yes!” shouted back a hundred young people gathered in the school assembly hall for the year-end concert, on May 13. The music teacher started dancing and the students chanted: “Antoine!  Antoine!”  The groups took turns performing, showing how well they had learned their percussion, singing and dance numbers.
“This project is changing everything in this school,” said Vania Aguiar, chair of the governing board and mother of an 18 year-old teen, Henri-Louis, who is living with moderate to severe intellectual impairment, and hardly speaks. “My son adores music and loves to participate. Since he started playing drums, he is flourishing more than before.”  

For the hearing-impaired students, percussion is a channel of communication like no other, because their ears pick up the vibrations of the drums. Suddenly the world opens up to them; they finally “hear” the same thing as their friends, and they dance with joy. 

For six years, Samajam has been implementing its major projects related to school retention and academic success. Every week, it works with 3,000 young people.

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