BONNYVILLE – When local students heard they were going to be playing at the provincial-level, it was music to their ears.
Over the weekend, H.E. Bourgoin Middle School Grade 8 students Michael and Joshua Gamblin and Assumption Jr./Sr. High School students Tomas Doell, Grade 10, and Amy Keizer, Grade 11, headed to Edmonton to play in the University of Alberta High School Honour Band alongside musicians from across the province.
They weren't the only students to be recognized as oustanding musicions. Assumption Grade 9 students Brooke Vining, Caleb Colbourne, Marie Maloux, and Kelsey Owen-Usher have until the end of the month to prepare for the Alberta Junior Honour Band, hosted by the Alberta Band Association in Edmonton from Feb. 26 to 28.
Although the University of Alberta’s High School Honour Band tends to have older students participate, this year saw 13-year-old twin brothers Joshua and Michael taking the stage.
“They’re the only middle-schoolers in Alberta that got in and that was surprising,” expressed H.E.B. music teacher Crystal Zaugg. “But, it wasn’t surprising that they got it because they’re awesome.”
Accomplished high school musicians, who had their names put forward by their music teachers, from across Alberta spent a few days rehearsing before joining the Symphonic Wind Ensemble in a concert at the Winspear Centre.
Due to their grade, the director of the program reached out to Zaugg to ensure the brothers could keep up with the other musicians.
“We played this type of music at the beginning of Grade 6 with the community band,” explained Joshua, who plays the alto saxophone.
Michael sees the University of Alberta honour band as a chance to learn more about his instrument.
“I don’t get much of a challenge here at H.E.B.,” the oboe player noted. “I used to be in the community band in Grade 6 with a whole bunch of high school students, and that’s how I got to be at a level higher than everybody else.”
Doell and Keizer were among the students making the trip to Edmonton. Assumption drummer Doell said he was "stoked" for the opportunity to play at a provincial-level.
“I thought it would be a fun opportunity to play with a bigger band and it would be a challenge. It would be cool to play with people I haven’t before, with a new director, and to learn some new music.”
For Keizer, she wanted to go because she’d heard positive reviews from previous participants.
“My brother was in the honour band a couple of years ago, and he really enjoyed it… Some of my classmates have also been in the band and they also really enjoyed it,” detailed the baritone saxophone player. “I was excited to have the new experience, meet some new friends, and just to learn some new music.”
Assumption music teacher Meredith Keizer suggested both students based on their ability and interest.
“I was hopeful (they) would be chosen to participate, and was very happy for both of them that they were,” she expressed. “This year, there were over 250 high school students that applied to the University of Alberta Honour Band.”
The music teacher also recommended four of her students for the Alberta Junior Honour Band. Vining, Colbourne, Maloux, and Owen-Usher will learn from some of the top music educators in the province before taking the stage for their big performance at the end of the weekend.
When it was announced who had made the cut, Maloux was blown away by the news.
“I couldn’t believe that I was chosen,” exclaimed the tuba player.
Maloux wasn’t surprised to hear so many other people from Assumption had also been chosen.
Vining agreed, “I thought it was great that there would be so many familiar faces when I go to the band.”
After hearing about the honour band from her teacher, Vining wanted to improve her clarinet skills and saw it as a chance to do that.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn some new things about music and art in general.”
Along with her congratulations, Keizer had some words of encouragement for her students.
“Soak it all up and enjoy playing with other like-minded students who just love making music.”