Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Music lures students from afar

PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2005.02.23
EDITION: Final
SECTION: City
PAGE: F3
BYLINE: Peter Severinson
SOURCE: The Ottawa Citizen
ILLUSTRATION: Photo: Pat McGrath, The Ottawa Citizen / Students at Earl ofMarch Secondary School in Kanata prepare to take part in the Capital Region Music Festival this week. (Allison Foley, Alana Fletcher, and Kelly-Anne Brabazon follow the score on their trumpets), while Steven Shao takes a turn on the trombone, and Katie Lagrave fills in the flute part.; Photo: Pat McGrath, The Ottawa Citizen / Students at Earl of March Secondary School in Kanata prepare to take part in the Capital Region Music Festival this week. Allison Foley, Alana Fletcher, and Kelly-Anne Brabazon follow the score on their trumpets, while (Steven Shao takes a turn on the trombone), and Katie Lagrave fills in the flute part.; Photo: Pat McGrath, The Ottawa Citizen / Students at Earl of March Secondary School in Kanata prepare to take part in the Capital Region Music Festival this week. Allison Foley, Alana Fletcher, and Kelly-Anne Brabazon follow the score on their trumpets, while Steven Shao takes a turn on the trombone, and (Katie Lagrave fills in the flute part).
NOTE: Preparing to Wow the Judges

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Music lures students from afar: More than 5,000 students from 130 school bands will compete in the Capital Region Music Festival this week -- a volunteer festival that's grown apace, Peter Severinson reports.

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Kim Vrieling graduated from high school six years ago. But, this week, she's back where she spent so much time during her school years -- the band room at Earl of March Secondary School. It seems the music department needs her help.

Ms. Vrieling, who is studying for a music degree at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, is spending her reading-week break volunteering for the Capital Region Music Festival. She is most certainly needed.

"I'm working Wednesday to Saturday and half of Sunday. I like it a lot," she says with a cheery smile.

Small wonder. The festival, which starts today at Earl of March, has never been more popular. More than 5,000 students from more than 130 school bands are coming from as far as Coburg and Scarborough. Seven years ago, organizers say, there were only about 50 bands.

That popularity has come at a price, of course. The whole show is put together by volunteers -- outside any official school program -- and with more and more bands wanting to take part, it's becoming difficult to accommodate everyone. Indeed, festival organizer Cathy Lynn Yorke-Slader says there wasn't space for all the bands that wanted to take part this year, and there are many schools that may want to start getting involved next time.

During the festival, each band plays three songs for a panel of judges, who rank them according to a national standard and provide feedback in workshops. Bands that meet the highest standard can be invited to a national festival held in Richmond, B.C.

Mrs. Yorke-Slader says almost two-thirds of the bands playing are from the Ottawa area. "The rest are just coming in from east, west, north, south." Some areas are too small to have their own festivals, she says, but it is important for those students to have this experience. She remembers her own first trip to a national festival, when she taught high school band in Arnprior, about 80 kilometres from Ottawa.

"There were many kids who had never been on a plane before. Sadly, there were even kids who had never been to Ottawa before," she says. "It made me feel really good that I was not only providing them with a music experience, but a life experience as well."

Gord Birkinshaw, a music teacher at Earl of March, says music programs could not do these sorts of projects without volunteer students and parents to manage events and raise funds. For the festival, some parents bring home-cooked meals for the judges, who can spend 12 hours a day listening to bands. "After four days, they get a bit blasted," says Mr. Birkinshaw.

Mrs. Yorke-Slader, meanwhile, says she's pleased with the success of the festival, but has "already had the nightmare" about how big the job will be next year. "We have to decide how large to let it get. We're already working on next year's festival. We know that it's not going to be the same."

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