The Westwood jazz band received gold at a national band competition in Niagara Falls May 14 to 19.
The Westwood Collegiate jazz band left nationals with a little more hardware than they arrived with.
The Grade 10, 11 and 12 group received gold at a national competition in Niagara Falls that took place May 14 to 19, an honour that Greg Edwards’ class has also earned in 2015.
In addition to being named best overall, the band’s drummer, Aidan Clarke was named Pearl Outstanding Canadian drummer, while bass player Carter LaFleche was named top player in his ensemble.
"I have a family of musicians, music goes way back in my family and I started off really liking rock music because that’s what my parents, ’70s and ’80s kids, would listen to," Clarke said.
He’s been drumming for six years, starting out in rock but expanding his repertoire to jazz, as well.
"A lot of people play jazz or rock, but I like to do both," he said.
Outside of school, Clarke also plays in two bands. Receiving the Pearl award makes Clarke the top high school drummer in Canada, and his prize includes a custom drum kit.
LaFleche has been playing bass guitar for three and a half years, at Clarke’s encouragement.
"He got me hooked," he said. "I’ve been playing piano many years, so I always say this is pretty much the same."
A long history playing together helps the two hold down a solid foundation for the rest of the ensemble. With only one drummer and bass guitar in the group, they say the pressure was felt at nationals.
"Everything is a solo basically," LaFleche said. "I have to work at a higher level. But it helps to have such great people around me. I’ve been saying since Grade 9, you can’t get any better unless you play with people that are better than yourself."
LaFleche has a band outside of school as well, and he plays gigs with his family.
Band director Edwards hasn’t been shy about giving the group challenging pieces, and most of them agree that when they first saw the sheet music at the beginning of the year, they never expected to make it as far as they have. However, they saw success early at the Optimist Band Festival where they received a perfect score.
When it came time for nationals, they were ready.
"It didn’t feel too different because we’ve done a lot of competition before," Davis Peters said. "It felt kind of like home because we’d seen the room, seen some bands play, so we went in and did our jobs and it was really fun."
"It’s not something you get to do often, so it was pretty special for all of us to go up there," Jackson Hamm added.
Alice Russell’s Westwood vocal jazz group attended nationals as well, where Carter Kennington was named top vocalist in his ensemble.
On Wed., May 31 the jazz band will be performing at Westwood Collegiate at 7 p.m., while the vocal jazz group will be performing at the same time and place on Thurs., June 1. Admission is free.