Monday, 6 April 2020

APRIL 6th - Band at Home

Students and parents - welcome back from the break.

Grab a beverage and get comfy as there is a lot here to digest.

I sincerely hope you had some time to sit back and enjoy yourself. For me it was a time of reflection.  In order for me to move forward with our classes, I spent a lot of time ruminating on the essence of our band program.  I strongly believe that the essence of what we do has a lot to do with making music together (team work), listening,  interacting, learning about its creation and the people who created it.  Whether we realize it or not, we are a strong community (team) based program, where each individual literally plays their part and as a result of some crazy mad teamwork we are better and stronger as a group.  (If you're really interested in this idea, check out the philosophical concept of holism)

A Mining Metaphor:

Throughout this week I will be implementing what may seem like some major changes to our program. 

If we follow the essence of band (in bold above) as a miner would follow an ore body, we would all agree that data from the dig dictates the direction of the shaft.  Thus, any changes we make to band class must be based on the data we have.  In that spirit, we are going to mine that idea to see where it takes us... and trust me it takes a team to build a mine and maintain its operation.  Following this metaphor, I am imaging our classroom as an active mine and the students as team as an "old time" miners armed with a pick-axe, shovel and a wee bit of ingenuity.  We are going to do our best with all the available resources at our disposal to figure out where to dig in a way that will give us the best yield.  And, just like all the miner's who have come before us, we may inevitably after a lot of work, abandon that shaft and try a new direction in search of a better ore body that will hopefully lead us to the motherlode.


1.  Everybody needs to activate a Zoom account.  Why Zoom?  After a load of research over the break and chatting with colleagues across the continent, it would appear that Zoom works consistently across all platforms, devices and desktops - and at this moment, seems to be the best platform out there for our needs. This will be our primary method of live communication and there are going to be times when meeting together over the next three months where we will all want to talk about what we have found and how it will guide our decision making.  No, we will not be making music this way.  I cannot find a single example on the entire planet where this has been successful on any platform... I can; however, find may examples of the disaster of an online band class (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, etc.).  We are simply going to use it as a way to talk together, check in on each other as a way to quickly and effectively share ideas of the successes and failures as we try to complete our assignments.  This is now a part of our course just like regular class-time and students will want to meet with us at the times suggested as we will be talking in detail about the projects you will be doing to complete the year. 

2.  Written Reflection (Get it?  The picture above is a reflection - hee hee smile) is a thing we do in our class. As you are all aware, it has been in place since you started in grade 9 and the dates for its submission were outlined in September. This is a quality assignment and its importance is not lost on us as it gives you an open line of communication that directly guides our learning.  Consequently, I felt it best to include this assignment as your last official "mark."  In order to facilitate this, I implemented a couple of changes that are educationally sound and driven by my mantra: what's best for students?  Changes:  No late marks will be deducted from this assignment, so if you have not got it in, let's do that regardless of the date (I will be contacting those of you that have not submitted your Written Reflection shortly to help you).  The due date was changed by three days to the 20th of March to align with the provincial mandate.  

3.  I will be adding two new drop down menus to our website to make it a bit easier to follow what classes are doing.  Next week you will find a "Concert Band Online" and a "Jazz Band Online" menu which will have area specific information for each class including assignments and a time-line for submission and due dates.

4.  Concerts?  Simply put - No.  I am heartbroken, as I am sure you all are.  As the days go on and we look at the data from around the world, this is just something that is not going to happen in the time we have left.  YES you will be playing.  No, you will not be playing the music we have been working on.  Major bummer.  Next week, following our mining metaphor,  I will be mapping out an alternate route for us to follow that still meets our needs and may very well give us an opportunity to share our music making in a virtual concert setting.  

5.  As you know, I do not have all the answers - in this unprecedented time, nobody does.   What I like about teaching is that I learn just as much from you as you do from me. With this idea as my guide, I will be setting out a series of assignments that will take us all the way to June.  In that, I have tried a few things, but some of these ideas simply may not work. Like our mining metaphor, it is very possible that we may dig hundreds of feet into the earth and find nothing. Besides just checking in on each other, our Zoom meetings will be a way for us to share some of the solutions we have found as we creatively complete our assignments so that we can all be successful.  WE ARE ALL STRONGER AS A TEAM. 

6.  How much "work" is enough? (I hesitate to call it homework, as isn't it really all just home work at this point?)  Looking at guidelines that have been posted around the world to help manage my expectations and make them as realistic as possible, I will be going with the idea of a MAX of 2 hours a week.  You may find that you are able to accomplish these assignments in less time or you may want to put in more.  To be specific, any time you will spend doing something for band would be a part of this 2 hours.  Downloading and researching an app., reading this small novella, getting staff paper writing out a part, figuring out away to solve a problem... whatever you are doing to forward your band learning it counts.  

7.  In accordance with the provincial mandate, assignments going forward from the 20th of March  will simply be pass/fail.  They will appear in the grade book as a check mark if the assignment is completed or missing if it is not.  If you do not complete the assignments, in accordance with the provincial mandate, course credit may be withheld. 

8.  Things that are to be submitted to me for a "check mark" in the grade book will be highlighted in blue from now on so you can easily pick out the assignment from all of this writing.


1.  Establish a ZOOM account.  I will be posting links (codes for our specific group chats) in the Drop down BAND/ JAZZ menus (that's how you join) later in the week and we will be meeting on ZOOM  in classes by Friday.  

   A.   When you have established and opened your ZOOM account, please email me at with the word: DONE!

Online "Etiquette" and Privacy are key.  Some things to think about before we meet.  Think of them as the must-do’s of online meeting etiquette:
  • Think about what you are wearing.  If it is inappropriate at school is inappropriate for our chat.
  • Don’t stare at your phone while other people are presenting - give each person speaking the same attention you would give them if they were right in front of you.
  • Don’t interrupt other people when they’re speaking (or attempt to speak over them)
  • Test all technology (including camera/video, Wi-Fi, and screen sharing) before the meeting
  • I don't want to see your bedroom. Think of your background before you activate your camera
  • Don’t work on other tasks (like checking email) during the virtual meeting
  • Turn off all notifications and make sure your cell phone is on silent
  • Make sure you you have told your family that you have a meeting and that you are in a quiet area free from unnecessary distractions.
  • Use headphones... preferably ones with a microphone.
  • For the first part of the meeting or class,  it will be best if you mute your microphone and just listen.  Then as the meeting goes on, and we all share, you will be invited to turn on your microphone.
  • will try my best to introduce everyone during the meeting, and if at all possible give everyone a chance to contribute - might be hard in symphonic band.
When in doubt, just practice common courtesy. People want to be heard, seen, and respected during an online meeting—just like they do everywhere else.
2.    I am slightly concerned about something called ZOOM Bombing where people can get our meeting access codes that are not involved in our classes and join our meeting and raise havoc. I will announce that I have posted the codes in the drop down menus by posting a picture of an instrument of some kind on instagram with a title of Mr. Edwards says (insert name of instrument).  That is our own special code so you know that I have put something in the drop down menu on the web site.  Keep your eyes out for the meeting times and PLEASE get that info into your section group chats as soon as you see it is posted. And obviously please do not share the codes with people not in our classes.

3.  I wanted to do a great team building assignment for this week to get you all used to collaborating online within your sections. My Idea was that you were all going to get Minecraft accounts and have to meet together in that virtual sandbox and complete a variety of tasks together... like Symphonic Band trombones have to build a massive T-Rex. One small problem... I thought Minecraft was free.  Nope. Mojang ain't like that. 

So I have come up with another plan.  A FREE plan. I would like you to connect with the members of your concert band section and play some UNO online.  Yes play UNO.  UNO mobile Fun Room supports up to 10 players at once, so it should accommodate even the most populated sections.  I am going to also recommend that you group chat on WhatsApp? while you play.  Makes for more fun and you can easily comment on the action.

NOTE:  If you do not have a device, you will have to kindly borrow your parents device for this one.

Never played?  Don't matter, it will walk you through it all.... super simple.

There is both the Android and an iOS version for devices available for free on Google Play and the App Store.  Links below if you need help.... and its FREE.


A.  Get familiar with ZOOM and be prepared to meet sometime Thursday or Friday.

B.  Set up a time in your group chat for a game within your concert band section using the UNO mobile app on Wednesday.  Play for about 30 min or 3 games so you have a good idea of what's going on. THEN.... challenge another section to a match on Friday.  Winner's get bragging rights!

C.  When you have completed the above (played 30 min or 3 games with your section and challenged another section), please have the section leader or a designated member from your section email me at with your section's answers to the following:

   a)  Which members from your section participated?(names please)
   b)  Which section did you challenge?
   c)  What did your section find was the most fun completing this this assignment?
   d)  What did your section think were the limitations and or frustrations?
   e)  Was any member of your section unable to participate? (name them) Why?
   f)   Is there anything I could have done to make this assignment better?
   g)  Do you have an suggestions for other multi-player games that would work if we tried this again?

Before you get all excited in your group chat, there's a FEW  STEPS you will have to do on your own before you can use the multi-player mode.  Thank goodness you will only have to do this the first time you use the App.

1.  Download the App if you do not already have it.

2.  When you open the app it will ask your age.... I think you can handle this one on your own.

3.  It will ask you to sign in - I suggest sign in as  GUEST

4.  Agree to terms

5.  Play the sample game to help you quickly learn the rules of game play.

6.  After the game is done follow the prompts.

7.  Choose and Avatar and a user name.  TO AVOID CONFUSION PLEASE USE YOUR REAL FIRST NAME!!!!!! 

8.  Follow the prompts to start your first game.... you must play this game to unlock the multi-player mode.

9.  After the Game follow the prompts to return to your Avatar.

10.  Click on the Avatar and you will be taken to a screen with and "ADD NOW" button for friends.

11.  Click ADD NOW.

12.  Along the top click the FIND banner.

13.  Click on the INVITE FRIENDS button.

14.  Now it will open with a series of options - Messages/ WhatAPP?  etc.  Send link to your section member or  person whom you are challenging.

15.  New Friends appear under the friends tab

16.  Your friends will receive a clickable link.

16.  In the top right click the yellow back arrow.

17.  The "I'm New Here" screen appears, click Confirm.

18.  Now the "FUN ROOM" will unlock

19.  This is where you can now play in the multi-player mode up to 10 people.

20.  Click "Create Room"

21.  Select "Classic" and click "Create"

22.  Now add friends and you are set to go.

23.  Don't forget that to chat while you play and throw some shade.  To do so you will need to have a group conversation going on WhatsApp? - unless of course you all have the same type of device then... well you know.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

MARCH 24TH - Moving forward

Since you are all used to coming into the band room with music playing, I thought is very apropos to have you listen to David Bowie's "Changes" as you read this post.

Anyone else feeling overwhelmed? ✋  Take your time.  This is a long post, but my hope is that it will answer all your questions in one spot rather than posting lengthy daily updates.

I hope that everyone is still doing well, staying home as much as you can be, and taking good care of yourself and others.  I hope you have been able to find time to practice but COMPLETELY understand if not yet. You’ll get there. One day at a time. 

I have been doing a lot of thinking over the last week about different ways that I can be helping everyone continue their practice at home and have weighed the pros and cons of many. 

Here is what I have decided:

1)  To make your life easier (if you have not already done so), add your and your parent's email address to our "FOLLOW BY EMAIL" box in the top right hand side of our web page.  That way you will receive an email every time I update the web page and you will not have to check back daily.

On that note, I am not going to be notifying you when I update the page... kind of silly actually.  You can check on your own, hence the advice above.

2)  I will continue to use INSTAGRAM as a way to reach out to as many students and families as I can with quick hits of info, reminders and intel as I always have.  If you are not following us on instagram, you are welcome to start, as it is the easiest way to keep you current - follow us at @bandatwestwood.

3)  You know I love to laugh, but better yet I love to share my laughter.... and making you giggle has been my goal for over 26 years.  To that end, I am encouraging you to follow our TWITTER account (Twitter: @bandatwestwood) where I will be posting solely to make you giggle with little bits of the musical (and non-musical) world as we all (the world) struggle with being at home for the next little while.  Knowing that I can make you smile (or groan) for even a second or two will make me, and hopefully you, feel a whole lot better.


4) Posting daily homework online is just not our thing in band as it is pretty obvious what you need to do - get the music ready for our concert.  Our progress on pieces is often slow and one day you have it an the next day you don't.  Had we been in the classroom,  we would be doing homework as we did in first semester to move our pieces forward and looking at questions from that homework, along questions from sectionals and Written Reflections, to guide our learning as we move towards our performance mid-term and final concerts.  BUT, we are not in the classroom and, as I have said before, we require new types of learning to match new types of teaching.

5) For this week, the only thing I am requiring of you is to submit your Written Reflection # 3 which is due Tomorrow: March 25th.  Email to: - if you are unsure IN ANY WAY how that is supposed to look or what is involved click here WRITTEN REFLECTION INFORMATION

6)   If you have not done so already (or if you just want a refresher on my thoughts) please go to Instagram and watch the 5 little videos I posted.  I'm not going to win an academy, but at least it is my words in my own voice.

7)  I feel like a broken record, but for all of this to work you need and instrument.  The school is open today from 9:00AM -2:00PM and then you will not be allowed back for the next little while.  Please make sure you have your instrument and your music. 

8) I am already hearing of students using online methods to hold sectionals.  I am very excited to hear that and am very curious as to how it worked out. Please let me know your successes and failures and I will share with the whole program so we can all learn together.

9) TO make this work, you are going to need to be creative. Think outside "the box."  Do what you must to make music.  Don't have Timpani... use Tupperware.

10) If you are comfortable with it, share a video of your practice session or sectional disaster.  If you like I can share it on our account and we can all nod our heads in understanding.  Comments off.

11) Don't forget that you can always listen to the recording of your music on the band website:  Westwood iTunes

12)  As well, there is loads of online help available in our Useful Links section and I will be adding more.


How to get a hold of me:

I will be available to you, as I always have, whenever you need me.  I quote the brilliancy of Dumbledore:  "Help will always be given at Hogwarts, to those who ask for it."

What is that going to look like in these strange and unprecedented days?

1)  I will be available from 8:30 - 3:30 daily via email.  Be patent, I may not get back to you immediately, but I will do my best.


3)  If you need some one-on-one help that cannot be solved through an email, let me know what time works best for you and we can arrange a time to: SKYPE, FACETIME, WHATSAPP (i.e. JJ and NV).



Just for Fun:

I imagine you are really overwhelmed by this lengthy tome and you may need to destress - I highly recommend that you let you inner DJ loose and try this out for size.  

I recommend starting with V1.0

Last Thought:

As you move forward with your practice be creative.  If any of the above does not meet your needs, lets talk about it.  We all need to be agents of change and I am doing my darnedest to adapt to these new and unprecedented circumstances.  If you have an idea or thought, please let me know.  The band program has been shaped into its awesome form by student voice... why would we change that now?

Be safe.

Take care of each other.

All of you are missed.

and...... Wash Your Hands.

Monday, 23 March 2020


Your absolute last chance to pick up your music and your instrument is tomorrow:  Tuesday March 24th.  The school will be open from 8:00AM -2:00PM for pick up.  You will not be allowed into the school with out assistance of an administrator. If you do go by, please be patient, as there may be a wait as Social Distancing will be in observance.  Please remember that after the 24th you will not be allowed into the school until further notice.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

What you can expect shortly

We are all doing our best to get you the info you need.

By Tuesday March 24th, I will have more details and information for you about the on-line plan for band.


In the meantime:

Parents and Students, if you have not done so, please go to instagram and watch the 5 little videos I posted on March 17th. These videos will help guide you until more specific information is available. (As always, if you do not have access to instagram, the videos are embedded in our website  - )

Monday, 16 March 2020

Lesson Continuity in Band


These are unprecedented times and we are all agents of change in the education system and band is no different. We are working hard at Westwood to maintain lesson continuity and provide opportunities for students to continue their learning regardless of the challenges and unique situations that lie head. 

Right now the best thing you can do is to make sure you have access to your instrument with you at home.  If you have not done so already, you need to stop by the school and pick up (or make arrangements to pick-up) your instrument along with your music for jazz and/or concert band. Large instruments need to be placed in their cases or travel bags and percussionists may be able to take some large instruments home, as well.  See Mr. Edwards or Mr. Walden for further assistance.

Shortly, I will be posting on the band website ( a series of lessons that will be able to be completed at home in preparation for your performance midterm, which will happen upon your return to in-class instruction. In the days ahead we will be exploring the possibility of having students Skype or FaceTime any performance questions or problems you may be having so I can do one on one live lesson with you. This technology is tried and true and private instructors have been using it for years around the world as a way of connecting with their students. 

In addition please remember that written reflection number three is due on the 25th.  As a slight change for some of you (in alignment with social distancing protocols) this assignment cannot be handed in and MUST be emailed to:

Any assistance needed for completing this assignment has already been posted in the drop-down menu above entitled: written reflection information. 

Again, we really appreciate everyone’s patience as we do our very best to adjust to these fluid and unprecedented circumstances. 

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Mr. Edwards. 

Friday, 13 March 2020

Important Information: Brandon Jazz Festival

As many of your are already aware, the Brandon Jazz Festival has been cancelled as a precautionary measure to assist with the control of any possible spread of the NOVEL COVID-19 virus.  

I have included the information we have received from the director of the festival and from our tour operator - Fehr Way Tours below.

Under no circumstances are you as a student or parent to contact either of these organizations, as they are swamped dealing with the massive changes that come with cancelling these events.  They will be dealing exclusively through our school and we will transparently share any information we have with you as soon as it is available.

Thank you for your understanding and patience as we all deal with this unexpected change,

Mr. Edwards

P.S. - the best thing you can do at this time to help is to keep washing your hands.

From the Director of the Brandon Jazz Festival:

MARCH - SPECIAL 2020 Newsletter
Brandon Jazz Festival 2020   March 19 - 21  CANCELLED

Dear Directors:

After much thought and consideration of the quickly changing health situation in Manitoba, Canada and North America and with the health and well being of students and teachers our main consideration, we have cancelled the 2020 Brandon Jazz Festival.  

Reported on the news this morning was the first confirmed case of Corona Virus in Manitoba.  By this time next week there could be hundreds of cases and we cannot take the risk of bringing all of your students together in tight quarters in concerts and having them all sharing equipment and microphones.

Please DO NOT call the WMCA about concert ticket refunds at this time.  I am meeting with them this afternoon to come up with a plan for refunds for concert tickets and registrations.  It will take time and I will update you as soon as we have more information.  

Please stay healthy!

Brent Campbell, Director
Brandon Jazz Festival.

From our tour company - Fehr Way tours:

Good Evening Brandon Jazz Family,

As you are aware by now - the 2020 Brandon Jazz Festival is officially cancelled.

We have contacted all of our suppliers and have informed them of the situation.  In fact, all of them have been gracious in providing a full refund.

For those who have purchased Festival Concert Tickets - they are still assessing the situation and will let us know the outcome.

Fehr Way Tours will be forwarding your Security Deposit (1st payment) over to a credit for next year.

We are grateful for your support and patience, as we begin the process of issuing refunds to everyone.

Stay well and we look forward to welcoming you back next year.

Dave Robinson
Fehr Way Tours

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

NEW Brandon Jazz Info

New Brandon Jazz info has been posted in the link above.  Just click the Brandon Jazz 2020 drop-down menu above to access.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Optimist Wrap Up

What a  wonderful year at festival for Westwood Collegiate Congratulations to all of our Jazz Bands and Concert Bands for their outstanding performances at the festival.

At the Concert band portion of the festival, all three of our bands played extremely well and when the dust had settled,  Symphonic band walked away with a perfect mark.  And at the Jazz festival this past weekend competing against groups from all across our province we also fared extremely well.  Special congratulations goes out to the members of LTJO and Sr. Jazz who brought home trophies for having the top marks in their respective categories. 

A special thanks goes out to Ms. James for being the best chaperone ever and making sure that we were all looked after and that the instruments were safe.

In a nutshell, these two awards along with Symphonic Band’s perfect mark two weeks ago solidifies Westwood as one of the top music programs in our province.  Way to go bands!

Here's some photos, but please read the copyright release below before sharing and if you would like an actual copy, please contact JJ at the info below.

The image(s) contained in this folder are copyrighted images of JJ Ali Photography.

JJ Ali Photography gives the school and members of it’s band program permission to use, reproduce, distribute and display the images for any lawful, personal, noncommercial use.

Simply put, you may print the images for yourself, or in your school newsletter and post to the schools online pages. But you may not sell the images in any form. Commercial (for profit) enterprises must contact JJ Ali Photography for permission. This would include for example a for profit newspaper.

JJ Ali Photography
541 Harstone Road
Winnipeg, MB R3R 1C8

Monday, 24 February 2020

Final Payment Brandon Jazz Festival + MEETING

Final Payment for the Brandon Jazz Festival is now due.  Check out the drop down menu above for more information.


Friday, 14 February 2020

A Treat For All Band Students

We are very excited to be hosting the "SHHH! Ensemble" in the theatre on March 2nd from 12:00-1:00PM as a treat for all of our band students.
This Percussion/ Piano Duo out of Ottawa and features Westwood Alumi Zac Pulak​.  You can see and hear more at: SHHH! Ensemble  After the concert Zac will be holding a clinic in the band room from 1:00 - 2:00PM for our percussionists. ​ 
Check out his amazing posts on Instagram @zacpulakperc
Providing there is room, we are happy to welcome other interested students and teachers.​

Monday, 3 February 2020

LIVE - Band Concert this week

As you know we have always been on the cutting edge of technology here in the Westwood Band Program and this
 concert is no exception.

Concert Band and Jazz on on Wednesday night
 at 7:00 PM CST.


You can watch by clicking on the link below
from anywhere on the planet that there is wireless.