Whitehorse’s All City Band Society is about far more than just making music.
This largely volunteer run non-profit organization is also about creating a sense of community.
“People don’t realize what a benefit being able to play in a large group like that is to your work and social life,” explains Bruce Johnson, a musical director for the All City Band.
“The most comfortable part of it is not necessarily the music, but the support of being with people”
This means a focus on emotional, intellectual, physical and social growth, using music to trigger that development.
The All City Band started just over 10 years ago when Johnson, a music teacher at F.H. Collins and Rebekah Bell, a music teacher from Porter Creek Secondary School, decided to join forces.
The result is an active community of musicians, volunteers and parents, and a marriage between Johnson and Bell.
There are also adult members from the wider community involved who play alongside the younger students. In fact, around half of the senior band is made up of adults.
The older members actually introduce the new students to their instruments, many for the first time, at the annual Squeak and Squawk Night, held in September every year. This event begins with instructions on handling the instruments, and finishes with everyone playing some basic band songs.
“It’s really cool for [the adult members] because they can see the progression and say I remember when you were in Grade 8 and could barely get a sound and look at you go now,” explains Bell, who is also a musical director with the All City Band.
“And it’s really good for the students to see that you can do this for ever and it doesn’t matter how old you are,” continues Bell.
“It’s a lifelong thing and you can always join a musical group and meet new people.”
Apart from playing music, All City Band members are frequently together outside the band rooms during fundraising missions. It’s all part of the bonding experience, be it selling chocolates, cleaning up litter or grocery bagging.
“They stand around bagging people’s groceries and they get to know each other,” says Bell.
There are also social activities held such as bowling evenings.
Despite the social aspects of the All City Band, its music, at the end of the day, is something they take seriously, in a fun kind of way.
“We take them as raw beginners in Grade 8 and we’re hoping that they will become lifelong musicians,” explains Johnson. “We don’t care whether or not they’re professional, or they just enjoy it.”
The aims of the band program include developing a musical ear, developing rhythmic and melodic feeling, and experiencing the thrill of playing well for oneself, with others and for others, at a high level.
The All City Band is showcasing their talent at the Whitehorse Rotary Music Festival which runs from April 11 to 21 with the involvement of around 1,200 musicians. Performances range from soloists to large ensembles.
The final concerts for the festival, held at the Yukon Arts Centre on April 21, are performed by musicians chosen for their talent. This show will be opened by the All City Band’s Junior Band, and closed by Senior Band.