Dance to sounds of the Big Band

The hallowed halls of learning are hushed, today. “It’s exam week,” Rebekah Bell, band teacher for Porter Creek Secondary School, says, explaining the surprising silence.

There are none of the scuffling sounds of students scrambling to get to wherever it is they are going. No chatter, no laughter, no cellphone beeps. The halls are almost deserted. It’s peaceful, yet unnatural.

But it’s a perfect time to talk about busier weeks ahead, especially about the Dessert & Dance fundraiser at the Westmark that Bell and her husband, Bruce Johnson, band teacher at F.H. Collins, are organizing.

It’s an All-City Band Society fundraiser for a trip to Burnaby in the spring, says Bell, adding that the senior and junior bands are going together. The concert bands will be performing in the Vancouver Kiwanis Music Festival, attending performances and doing some touristy kind of things.

“I’m actually really excited for that trip, now,” says Chanel Cain, a member of the student executive who has ducked into Bell’s office and stays to listen.

“The fundraiser is actually our tenth one, I think,” Bell says.

Bell has been teaching band for 11 years – 10 of them at PCSS. She is also the originator the Dessert & Dance event to raise funds for student, parent and community band members.

“The Big Band is the musical group that we are featuring,” Bell says. They will be providing the majority of entertainment for the evening.

As well, the All-City Junior Jazz bands and Sax Appeal will be playing a couple of tunes each.

There will be dancing, of course. And dessert, obviously. The event even includes a dance lesson or two, somewhere in the middle of the evening, which is provided by Dance Sport: “Swing dance, a Latin dance or a waltz.”

And … “round desserts,” Bell says … lots of cheesecake along with tea, coffee and other non-alcoholic beverages.

“It isn’t a school event,” Bell says. “It’s an event we’re putting on for the community. We’re really wanting to gear the evening toward couples.” How fitting as it falls the eve before Valentine’s Day.

Bell laughs as she adds that of course it’s more difficult to dance when you’re not in pairs.

“From a musician’s perspective, it’s great to see people dance and us play. It’s fun … it’s energizing.” Bell sings jazz tunes and plays tenor sax to swing, latin, “all kinds of stuff”.

“There will be a good variety of music,” she says, adding that there are those who love to just sit and listen, too.

“We’re lucky to be able to get the Big Band. They have a pretty busy performance schedule for February.”

There will be a silent auction, as well. The entire event is being coordinated by band members – students, parents and community members – who will also be there to serve throughout the evening.

“We need to give a big thank you to the Westmark Whitehorse and Westmark Beaver Creek hotels,” Bell says, indicating that the two have collaborated to sponsor the use of the Westmark Ballroom (the room that Frantic Follies is held in).

Last year, around 150 people attended. They are hoping for more, this year.

Without co-operative effort and the constant communication between Bell and her husband, Bell doubts that something like this could happen. It takes a lot of energy, she says, and (bringing her thumb up to meet the fingers of her right hand, in that “chat” symbol) it takes a lot of communication, which doesn’t end when the school bell rings and the band teachers go home.

Tickets for the Feb. 13, 7 p.m. Dessert & Dance at the Westmark are available at Baked Café and various locations. For more information, visit or call 668-6787.

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