Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Westwood Sr. Jazz at Nationals

With little ceremony the group of 25 students and 2 chaperones headed off to Toronto on an average every day evening with anticipation in their hearts and dreams of GOLD floating in their heads.  By 1:35AM we had reached our destination in Niagara Falls and were ready for our pillows.

Morning dawned with a clear blue sky and stellar temperatures as we made our way to the Scotia Bank Convention Centre.  After listening to a few ensembles and getting a feel for the room and the equipment, we made a quick dash for lunch and then it was our turn to represent Winnipeg and our alma mater - Westwood.  Karma was on our side from the get go and sure enough our festival guide turned out to be from Winnipeg, and wouldn't you know it our warm-up room was 204 and lastly... the sound guy was a Westwood alumnus form 1975!.... WOW! You just know its going to go well.

There also was the gold glitter... don't forget the glitter.... if you do not know about this, ask a member of the band.  Thanks Erin.  You made our day even more special.

And I'm not going to sugar coat it..... they nailed it.

As the last notes rang through the performance room you could tell that something special had just occurred.  The next thing we know we are whisked down a hall and sitting in front of our adjudicator, the fantastic trumpeter and educator Jason Logge.  In an ironic twist, he was our adjudicator in 2015 and he remembered all of our pieces from that performance, as well.  Jason is an excellent tactician and clinician and had the students in the palm of his hand from the beginning to end.  He was impressed and the fact that we are consistently bringing this type of ensemble to this festival was not overlooked.  It was his pleasure, he said, to recognize Carter LaFleche on bass, with the honour award; recognizing Carter as the top player of the performance.  Everyone in the band agreed with this decision and there was much rejoicing.

After a quick stop a the photo booth, I led the group down the street to a beautiful vista of Niagara Falls and it was here that they discovered their fate.  The fabulous Ms. Russell took some photos and managed to capture the exact moment that the band found out that they were GOLD champions (again).   Great group of kids and a stunning performance.

Not to be outdone, the Vocal Jazz  got Down and Dirty and gave it their all at their performance Thursday morning. I was privileged to be in the warm-up room and be a part of their process... these truly are Warriors..... not to mention big Queen fans.

After that is all a bit of a whirlwind and then, as if that was not enough, my cell phone rings and it's Neil York-Slader chair of the Instrumental Jazz division letting me know that it would be worth our while to re-arrange our day and attend the Festival Awards Ceremony.  Dumbfoundedly I agreed and the next thing we know, we're sitting an the auditorium and they announce that Shawn LaFrance, Senior Marketing Manager for Pearl Drums Canada is about to award the Outstanding Canadian Drummer award for 2017 to our very own Aidan Clarke.  This award recognized Aidan as that top drummer at Nationals.  And... as a perk, the award not only comes with a cool title for his resume, it also comes with a complimentary drum set from Pearl Drums.  VERY COOL!  On a side note, you may remember that Aidan also won the top drummer at Brandon Jazz Festival the year in March.  Anyhow.... we cheered and none of us expected this amazing achievement to be bestowed on one of our own.

From there..... we go into the heart of Niagara and saw the falls up close, from afar and from above.  So close, in fact, that you literally felt like someone was holding a hose over your head..... the ponchos did nothing.

What a trip. What kids.  What ambassadors for music. You should all be proud of them and shout their accomplishments form the rooftops.... I could not ask for better students if I tried.

Thanks for that. What a life..... I love my job.

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