Local music students hit some sweet notes last week at the annual Vancouver Island Concert Band Festival in Port Alberni.
Both the senior and junior concert bands from Parksville’s Ballenas Secondary School earned superior ratings — the highest ranking available — in performances for adjudicators last Thursday at Alberni District Secondary School’s auditorium.
Kwalikum Secondary took three groups for performances Wednesday, May 4. The KSS senior band also earned a superior rating, the Grade 9-10 band earned superior-minus and the Grade 8 band claimed an excellent rating.
“Both of our groups received an invitation to the national MusicFest next year in Niagara and Toronto,” said Rick Robson, longtime band teacher and conductor at Ballenas.
One month ago, the Ballenas jazz band attended the West Coast Jazz Festival at Vancouver Island University and claimed a silver medal, also earning an invitation to MusicFest.
The KSS band excelled despite an 11th-hour shuffling of conductors. Kwalikum band teacher Dan Craven suffered a death in the family, and called his former mentor and recently retired teacher Dave Stewart to step into the breech.
“I got the call the day before (our performance),” said Stewart, who retired last June after 36 years of teaching but who still instructs and plays in several groups in the area. “I knew most of the kids because I had them last year, and it helped that I had conducted most of the pieces they were performing.”
The Kwalikum senior and junior bands also earned invitations to MusicFest Canada in 2017, but it is uncertain whether either school will attend due to the expense of travel to Eastern Canada.
“When we come back in September that will be a topic of conversation,” said Robson. “I’ll have to talk to the parents first, and the kids, and see what we want to do.”
In the meantime, 60 members of the Ballenas concert band will depart tomorrow for a performance in the Red Deer Band Festival and a tour of concerts and workshops in Alberta, Robson said. The tour will include a performance stop at his own childhood elementary school, Crescent Valley Elementary in Hinton, AB. “In my entire career, I’ve never had a group that’s done that,” said Robson, who has taughts band at BSS for 25 years. “I still have two brothers in the area, and they’re going to come to the concert.”