Tuesday, March 1, 2011

EPSB Students Chart Path to Big Musical Night

Students chart path to big musical night

Edmonton Public Schools prepare for 47th annual talent showcase

By Mariam Ibrahim, Edmonton Journal March 1, 2011

The small gym at Westminster School was transformed Monday afternoon as dozens of students and their instruments filled the space for a last-minute band rehearsal.

Their conductor stood at one wall, and in front of her were seats filled with students holding instruments ranging from woodwinds to horns, with the percussion section nestled at the back.

"Don't shy away from anything back there, percussion," the conductor said before guiding the band back into song. She guided the woodwinds first, with the brass section quickly filling the space with its deep tones. Soon, the tempo picked up and the entire band was performing, the rhythm reverberating through the gym floor.

They finished and their conductor offered some tips. "Now you guys are getting how it all fits together," she said before they played it once more.

The students are part of the Edmonton Public Schools junior high honour band, made of up of Grade 9 students from across the district.

Monday's rehearsal was in preparation for Edmonton Public School's 47th annual Night of Music, happening on Wednesday evening at the Jubilee Auditorium. The concert is free and will feature a variety of performances and musical styles put together by 18 conductors, 56 music teachers and more than 800 students from Grades 1 to 12.

This year's theme is Music: The Rhythm of Life, and the musical choices for Wednesday's concert reflect that, said Tim Paetkau, music consultant for Edmonton Public Schools.

"It's a wide variety of music. You're going to hear a real mixture," Paetkau said, adding that 14 performances through the evening will give the audience a taste of everything from blues and rock to a ceremonial song from Africa.

The Jasper Place School Rebel Thunder Drumline, which was in the Grey Cup Parade last November, will make its first appearance at the concert. "The drum line is one particular thing that most people haven't seen," Paetkau said. "It's becoming more and more popular in Canada."

Kevin Wang and Jared Barron are both part of the junior high honour band. It will be the first time either has performed in the annual concert, and their impending debut has given them a case of the jitters.

"It's like nervousness, but also, there's so many people, you don't have to get it absolutely perfect because a lot of people are covering you up," said Kevin, who plays the band's only euphonium, an instrument he likens to a small tuba.

Both students have been practising during their free time since they received their sheet music at the beginning of January. They've each been to the Jubilee to watch a show before, but this is the first time they'll perform on stage there.

"I'm excited at the prospect of getting into such a big auditorium," said Jared, who plays trombone.  Paetkau said he hopes the annual concert will show school trustees, teachers, principals, parents and students how much can be achieved with an investment in music.

"When we give it the effort, when we put good teachers in there, when we put money into the programs, good things can happen and it can make a big impact on students' lives," he said.  "Music helps keep students invested in their education, he said. "I think it's a great way to keep kids in schools. It's a great motivator."

Both Kevin and Jared said they've already seen the benefits of studying and playing music. "I feel like I'm definitely going to take band in high school. I think it's important," Jared said. "I've heard about how it can improve your average and make you think in a more critical way."

Being in a band is like being part of a "tight-knit" community, he said. "It's like a family."  For Kevin, music can speak to all people, no matter who they are or where they come from.  "Music is sort of the universal language because anyone can understand it," he said. "What we play is really great. Anyone can come and enjoy it; you don't have to have any sort of music background."

Night of Music happens Wednesday from 7 p.m. to 9: 10 p.m. at the Jubilee Auditorium.  Edmonton Catholic Schools is hosting Band Day on March 9 at The Citadel Theatre, where 1,500 students are set to perform.

mibrahim@edmontonjournal.com twitter.com/mariam_di

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

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