Members of the Sooke Youth Strings.

School band impresses judges

Sooke Youth Concert Band and Strings Orchestra commended

The journey began for students from Journey middle school (JMS) and Edward Milne community school (EMCS) competing at a regional music competition in Port Alberni in 2013.

Our children were a few of the 450,000 students who compete regionally across Canada every year. They received superior and superior plus rating which qualified them for the national music competition, and they were invited to compete at the national level in Richmond this May.

Eight thousand children competed at the nationals, where there are six levels of competition according to difficulty, six being the university level and three being Grade 10 and up.  Middle schools compete at levels one or two.  The children play against a standard and there are four categories of placement: merit, bronze, silver and gold.

School bands from JMS and EMCS joined together to form the Sooke Youth Concert Band and they played on the first day, in level two. The adjudicators awarded them silver for the performance of their pieces and gold for sight reading (a piece they did not know or had not practiced previously). During the feedback to the children the adjudicator spoke to one piece they had played: “You played this piece wonderfully and it was not just me who felt that way…it was every person on the panel! In fact, I even think the composer of Falcon Fanfare — had he been lucky enough to hear you — would have been standing and cheering because you played it with great maturity.”

The string orchestra played on day two, in level one. This group has only been playing as an orchestra for three months prior to the competition; they were awarded silver for their performance. During their feedback session they were informed that they were “Excellent…you are so beautifully responsive. You listen carefully and are a lot of fun to play with!”

A group of five players from Grade 8 formed the only string quintet at the nationals and played on day three, in level one. This group had only been together since March break, 2014; they received bronze for their performance. They were honoured with the input, “Perfect rhythm…you guys are fabulous!”

One adjudicator speaking on the first day of performance commented, “Knowing the history of the band and appreciating that music was starting again for the first time in Sooke schools after 25 years of silence, was a very inspiring story.”

Another speaking directly to Lorna Bjorklund, music teacher at JMS for the past six years, said, “To think that you have not had music in your schools for all that time you have brought an exceptional group of kids to this competition! You should be commended and the children should be told that they are amazing!”

Three students from our Sooke community were privileged to be presented with a Nationals Honour Awards went to Matthew Mclean (Sooke Youth Concert Band), Adam Baines (String Orchestra) and Isis Cochrane (String Quintet).

“Well done to all the music students! We were very pleased with the performance and the behaviour of the students we took with us to Vancouver for the Nationals of Musicfest Canada. They were a credit to you, to the school, to themselves and to the youth of today,” said Lorna Bjorklund. “This has truly been a highlight for these children; they have invested a lot of their time and effort to do the best they can. We acknowledge that so much has to go into performing for half an hour and being in one place for three days and two nights. Many people helped in so many ways, we truly felt we were representing Sooke and that our community was behind us. All the students want to say thank you to the community, as you have made it possible in giving these students a chance at the goal they had been working toward for over two years.”

Jen Fiorin, a music teacher at EMCS, acknowledged the children’s achievement, “This is my first year of teaching music in Sooke and I have been amazed at how talented these students are. When I heard we had been invited to the nationals, I was thrilled and excited for these kids who come from this small town of Sooke. They are so good to work with, very disciplined in the music area and I wasn’t at all surprised at the nice comments they received from the adjudicators.  I’m very proud to be a part of this exciting time for these kids. A special thanks to all the parents, teachers, volunteers and the community that made it possible for them.”

If these great ambassadors for Sooke, and wonderful group of students, could have one wish, it would be that the community continue to support fundraising efforts, attend concerts, and continue to support them in their ongoing future music education.

Contributed by Joanne Baines

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