Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School’s tour band is about to hit the road again.
Band teacher Jasmine O’Leary said her students are practicing for the Whistler Music Festival, which runs from April 20-23. The festival brings 1,500 student musicians together from across Canada and the United States for a weekend of concerts, workshops and adjudication.
“It’s nice we have a trip we’re working towards. It gives a little bit more motivation for perfecting the pieces and having a concert is really nice,” O’Leary said. “We have 30 students traveling to Whistler for the trip and we’re looking forward to more concerts (in 100 Mile House) later on this year.”
Students Liam Guimond and Emily Thain are both excited to go to Whistler, as this will be the first time they have gone out of town to play music. Guimond, who’s in Grade 11, said this is the biggest band they’ve had since the start of the pandemic.
Guimond has played trumpet since Grade 6 and joined the band because his sister made it seem “really cool.” Thain, meanwhile, has taken lessons for most of her life and plays the euphonium, a brass instrument at the “happy medium” between a trumpet and a tuba.
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“It’s been really good. For the past couple of years, because of COVID, the band has been a little shaky,” Guimond said. “When we returned (from lockdown) in 2020 we would have Grade 9 band for three hours a day, which was not very fun but we managed to get through it.”
Now that band class has returned to a less condensed format, he said the band is enjoying playing together more often. Many of the tour band members also belong to the senior band. This has allowed them to get in sync and improve their overall sound, Thain said.
“I think it really helps our senior band this year that a lot of our members are also in tour band,” said Thain, who is in Grade 10. “We’re together more often and we’re playing together more than we would.”
Since joining the tour band, Thain said she has grown as a musician, improving her sound and skills with the euphonium. She noted that playing music uses every part of her brain, increasing her technical, focus and listening skills.
“Tour band is just a really great opportunity for people with less experience like me to look up to people like Liam who have been doing it for longer,” Thain said. “It helps so much to hear the more experienced players and gives yourself somebody to compare yourself to.”
Guimond said he does his best to set a good example for younger musicians. He is currently the band’s most senior trumpet player, so he is under some pressure to help others improve their sound.
“I definitely have to practice more so I keep on top of it and make sure I’m playing everything right and they can follow that direction,” Guimond said. “You want to follow along to the beat but simultaneously listen to others so you can match their tone so you don’t overpower anyone.”
O’Leary said it was difficult during COVID to motivate her band students. This year she’s noticed a more focused feel to her students’ rehearsals.
“I definitely try to pick music that’s enjoyable for them to play and have different challenges within so they can develop different skills,” O’Leary said. “That includes their musicality, their expression, their tone and their intonation. I always want to pick something that’s a little rhythmically challenging as well.”
Both Guimond and Thain say they hope more of their fellow students will join band next semester.
“Join band, because nothing bad is going to happen if you join a band,” Thain said. “You’re only going to see a positive effect.”
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