A local band program has hit a high note in its most recent competition.
Westwood Collegiate’s various bands recently returned from the Optimist Clubs of Winnipeg International Band Festival with an unheard-of six awards, including the notable Don Green award, which a school can only receive once. Band director Greg Edwards insists that it would have been impossible to get to this level without the students leading the effort.
"This particular year, things just clicked," Edwards said. "All the bands seemed to just go after it, and it wasn’t through some stick and carrot method. It was a group of people from Grade 9… up to Grade 12, that were ultimately intrinsically motivated by the music, by each other, to just see how good can we get?"
On March 7, Edwards invited the division’s arts co-ordinator, Jackie Gagne, John Balsillie, executive director of the Manitoba Band Association and Optimist Festival chair Robert Clark to speak to and congratulate the students for their accomplishments.
"You’ve heard me say how amazing I think you are for too many times," Edwards explained to the theatre of students. "I don’t think you believe me anymore."
Gagne commended the group on putting in the time to takes to become proficient in music.
"It takes so much to practice and become good at what you’re doing," she said. "It’s not instant gratification to play an instrument. It takes hours and hours of practice. You have to have a passion for it."
Balsillie spent some time telling the students about the Don Green award, and who Don Green was. A very active and engaged member of the Winnipeg community, Green recently passed away at the age of 84.
"He was a building block guy of community," Balsillie said. "He was a member of the Assiniboine Optimist Club, he founded the Crestview men’s fastball league and the Crestview Community Centre. He was a naval officer and a volunteer with the Assiniboine school board.
"The things he loved about band were not the three-minute or six-minute piece that you guys just love. He loved the fact that you had been practising since Grade 7 at Lincoln. He loved the fact that you had to learn scales. He loved the fact that you had to learn all the theory and the music gave you this window into history to the pieces and how they were written.
"He was convinced music brought people together to help build a better community."
Balsillie added that the award is given not just on performance, but also a mature presence on and offstage, receptivity to clinics and commitment to the festival over a number of years.
In addition to the Don Green award, the senior jazz band received a perfect score, which Edwards says is very rare. The other groups ranked as superior, and were only a few points shy of perfect scores themselves.