The Fort La Bosse Band, Grades 9 – 12, attracted attention at the Optimist Band Festival in Winnipeg in February, performing two outstanding pieces before not only their peers, but world class band conductor and adjudicator Dr. Gerald King.
The group performed so well, they were recommended to compete in the National Music Festival in Calgary in the spring of 2020.
From the University of Victoria, Dr. King is one of Canada’s most respected conductors; he served as guest conductor of the United States Army Band and his many achievements are world renowned. Top marks and a complimentary adjudication from him speak volumes of the band program at the FLB schools.
In his adjudication, King noted the FLB Band had amazing stage presence. He said, “The confidence they showed as they walked onto stage, the poise and posture were indicative of a professional group. This showed through in their playing.”
The FLB Band was formed by amalgamating high school students from Virden (32), Elkhorn (22) and Reston (8). Sandra Unger, the Elkhorn band teacher and Michelle Gervin, Reston’s band teacher, trained their school bands separately, each rehearsing during the scheduled band period.
Gervin said, “We met together once in Virden for a rehearsal that started at 11:10 a.m. and ended at 2:15 p.m. with a quick break for lunch over the noon hour.”
At the Winnipeg festival, FLB Band conducted by VCI band instructor Janet Yochim, played two relatively recent compositions: Yorkshire Ballad by James Barnes, a British piece with a broadly flowing melody; and Imaginarium by Randall D. Standridge, a piece that Reston School’s Gervin described as very intense, with bars in 5/4 time among the more regular 4/4 lines.
“The two pieces they were playing were very challenging for any high school group to play,” said Yochim. She felt that the slow ballad demonstrated the band’s musicality and finesse. The faster, rhythmically-charged Imaginarium showed off the band’s technique and ability to communicate the excitement of a powerful, creative work.
“These young adults represented our schools in a huge city of huge programs and came out on top,” said Yochim.
Unger said this festival was a great experience for the music students. “My students at Elkhorn really enjoyed the experience and said they’d like to do it again!”
Gervin said it was a long day that started and ended at home, in Reston. But it was well worth it.
She said, “For my students, this is an excellent opportunity to play with a full band, where all instrument parts and sections are complete. It also gives my advanced students an opportunity to be challenged to play a much higher level of music than we can play in our small ensemble,” adding, “It is always good to learn from another teacher, as well.”