Joni Mitchell turned 75 this month, and her management team says she doesn't often respond to autograph requests.
But the Canadian singer-songwriter took time out to sign a Gibson guitar [ed: a Martin, actually], knowing it would provide music lessons to teenagers in Scarborough and honour the memory of a young man, Tyler McGill, who lost his life to violence.
Members of the Barenaked Ladies, Pearl Jam and Blue Rodeo also signed guitars which were auctioned at the 10th annual Tyler McGill Memorial Benefit Concert on Nov. 17.
The event, which supports the Tyler McGill Music Scholarship Program and Music! Not Mischief, a program run by Toronto Police Service members, featured teens from age 12 to 17 performing on stage at the Queen Victoria Pub.
"This year the kids did exceptionally well," says Steve Worrall, a professional guitarist who teaches the Tyler McGill Program on Saturday afternoons.
The McGill family was there, too.
McGill, called T-Lar by friends, was fatally stabbed at a Scarborough McDonald's drive-thru in 2007, an apparently random act. He was 22.
He played guitar and attended Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts.
Operated by YouthLink, the program bearing McGill's name isn't about producing stars, but self-esteem in young people who find themselves "in vulnerable situations and hard situations," Worrall said Monday.
"Music is one of those catalysts."
The participants, who can be as old as 24, get an instrument and free lessons. Worrall, who gets them playing as soon as possible, wants to expand the program to six days a week.
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