Just how much Purdy’s chocolate can one town buy?
And furthermore, how many high school bands can it support? These and other questions spawned the birth of the All-City Band, which will be performing “Music for a Winter’s Eve” December 10 and 11 at the Yukon Arts Centre.
The All-City Band draws membership from students in all three Whitehorse high schools and adds experienced musicians from the community.
While the Grade 8 bands consists solely of students, the Junior Concert Band has a handful of adults and approximately half the Senior Band is comprised of “mature” musicians.
Long-time band director and F.H. Collins teacher, Bruce Johnson explains how the band was conceived.
“We realized we were duplicating services because if we’re selling Purdy’s at F.H. we might as well sell Purdy’s at PC [Porter Creek] and if we’re starting all the beginners at Squeak and Squawk, why don’t we start all the beginners in town at once.”
Squeak and Squawk is an event held each September for all Grade 8 Band students. Over 90 minutes the students receive their instruments and learn basic technique, assembly, care and maintenance from experienced musicians.
With nearly a hundred students in Grade 8 Band, it is an efficient way of giving this introduction.
The All-City Band, meanwhile, is a model that benefits both student and non-student members alike.
“It’s a two way street,” Johnson says. “The adults get to play as senior band players and the students benefit from getting to work with the very best that we have in this town.”
Playing in an all ages band also sets a stage for a future in music, whether for pleasure or for profession.
“It’s good for kids to know that you don’t stop doing music in Grade 12 just because there’s no more band class,” says Johnson. “It’s about lifelong learning.”
In his career as a music teacher Johnson has seen many students go on to play in university groups. Some of them become pros.
Sadly, he and his wife, All-City Band co-director and Porter Creek Secondary music teacher Rebekah Bell, will be leaving town.
Johnson is confident that qualified directors will be found.
“They’ll have little trouble getting replacements,” he says. “We have an outstanding facility. We’ve got great equipment. The kids are awesome and the parents. There’s lots for Whitehorse to be proud of. People around the country know that Whitehorse has a solid band program and nice kids.”
Next week’s concerts will feature two completely different programs.
Monday night will feature the F.H. Collins Grade 8 Band and the All-City Junior and Senior concert bands — playing a little of everything, including some seasonal numbers.
Tuesday’s concert will feature the Porter Creek Grade 8 Band, the All-City Jazz Band and the All-City Junior and Senior Bands playing a mix of jazz, swing and blues.
The All-City Bands perform Monday, December 10 and Tuesday December 11, at 7 p.m. at the Yukon Arts Centre. Tickets are $5.