Well, all right, it was actually more like a month.
This month at Notre Dame Collegiate was festival month. This isn't particularly unique amongst band programs in Alberta, but what seems to be unique to Notre Dame Collegiate is how we participated.
This year, 36 different students participated in festival by performing solos, duets or quartets. This is not like Concert Band, with a group of 50 students performing a march or Frank Ticheli piece (although our Grade 7 Concert Band did attend Airdrie in that type of format as well). These are students who chose their own music and performed them with a piano accompanist, much like many of the professional artists who come through High River's Gift of Music Concert Series.
Notre Dame Collegiate is the only school in the Foothills to have sent students to festival playing solos, duets or small ensembles, and 36 students selected music to do so.
This is unique in Alberta. Very few schools send students to participate in local festivals. It is quite possible that Notre Dame Collegiate sent the most of any rural school (according to any information I can gather), and competed with the number of students from high population schools in urban centres.
Notre Dame Collegiate students love music, and they play it happily and willingly.
I wish you all could have seen the hard work and determination our students employed this past two months. It was incredible to watch students go the extra mile to craft a performance for an adjudicator. The music room hasn't been silent since December as each student has been working diligently on their music. They worked at lunches, before and after school, and during self-directed learning blocks to prepare their music. It was a joy to listen to.
But that's not all ...
... as we also saw performances by one of the more unique ensemble styles in Alberta, our Steel Pan Ensembles. Both our student group "Panorama" and our community group "Pantasia Steel Ensemble" also performed, the latter receiving a "Distinction" rating at festival.
Our Junior Jazz Band "The Woodshedders" also received a "Distinction" rating, and was invited to perform at the Adjudicator's Showcase on March 24, 2018 as well.
Left: Captured from an iPhone video of the Pantasia Steel Ensemble during their Distinction-rated performance.
The Grade 7 Concert Band attended Airdrie's Rotary Festival of the Performing Arts, however the highlight of their journey this month was at the National Music Centre, where students imaginations and creativity in music took a completely different path than they would have expected.
And yet they are not done.
You'd think with all this activity the students (or at least the music teacher) would be done. They aren't.
I walked into my classroom on the Monday after all this work was complete, and one of the festival soloists approached me with a ridiculous grin on her face. She presented me with an arrangement of "A Thousand Years", a piece recorded by Christina Perri. "I was so excited, I spent the weekend arranging this," the student told me.
Pictured: NDC's marching band in the 2017 Little Britches Parade.
Now the marching band unit begins, seeing Grade 7 Band students prepare for marching in the Little Britches Parade on May 19, 2018. Last year was Notre Dame Collegiate's first foray into marching band, and it continues once again this year.
This all comes a couple of months after our students had a private concert by the Proteus Saxophone Quartet, after which the performers ran saxophone workshops with our saxophone players, thanks to a partnership with the High River Gift of Music Society. Pictured is our Grade 8 saxophonists working with Michael Morimoto. From one of our students in the workshops: “I sound so much better now since the workshop! Not that I was really bad, they just helped me be more precise, and I like my sound even more now.”
The little program that could.
Notre Dame Collegiate is able to offer all this simply due to the support of the students and their families. We have a music program that offers students among the widest and most diverse musical opportunities of nearly any rural music education program, rivaling programs in urban centres. Within these unique opportunities, we have developed a tradition of excellence as well. Students can play in traditional concert band, jazz band or choir, but they can also participate in non-traditional steel pans, festival solos, marching band, digital music and Music Ministry.
It seems to me that our students get that music should be a core subject. It is as Bill Dimmer, the adjudicator of many of the solos performed at festival this year, stated in his first words of the festival; "music education is the only area of study that systematically develops connections between both hemispheres of the brain." It is an undisputed fact proven through mountains of research, and the best part of it is that it is also fun. As I have said on numerous occasions, music is essential to what it means to be human, and it is the job of education to help students develop the fullness of their humanity, therefore music education must be considered core to the development of our students.
This is why Notre Dame Collegiate's music department holds as its philosophy that ...
It is a labour of love to teach music, and to make these opportunities available for our students. However, we are facing a period of uncertainty in education with new curricula, budgetary pressures, and shifting priorities due to certain politicians and lobby groups who have a myopic view of what education should be. That is why I ask you to get involved in supporting music education in Alberta.
Here in High River, you can support music education in any number of ways. One way is to support music education at Notre Dame Collegiate directly by participating in their next fundraiser, purchasing flowers or vegetables in their Spring Plant Sale provided by local greenhouse GroZone and the High River Catholic Fine Arts Parents Association. You can also support music at Notre Dame Collegiate simply by providing a donation to the High River Catholic Fine Arts Parents Association who support all the fine arts programs at the school.
Supporting locally is fantastic, but we also need music education to be a priority everywhere. If it is only a priority in a small area, we come across only as a voice in the wilderness. To this end I recommend supporting any number of provincial music education organizations including the Alberta Band Association, Choir Alberta, and a personal project of mine, the Alberta Music Education Foundation whose vision is to see all students have access to music education opportunities.
Our decision makers need to be reminded of the value of music and the arts in education, particularly during this time of year when scheduling and budgetary decisions are being made, and educational priorities are being discussed in curricular reviews. I invite you to connect with your trustees and elected representatives, and share with them the importance of a quality music education for every child. You can use the information I've provided in a letter, currently addressed to my Member of the Legislative Assembly, the current Education Minister and the current Culture Minister in Alberta. You can of course send it to anyone you feel would benefit from this message. You can also share this post on social media, and help every see the value of music education.
Music Education is in our schools because we value it.
Mr. Windsor will provide you with some interesting hints, help, advice, and resources on this page.