Young and not-so-young musicians from throughout Whitehorse will perform together in two separate concerts at the Yukon Arts Centre next week.
The occasion is the All-City Band Society’s annual pre-Christmas presentation, which this year is going under the title of Music for a Winter Eve.
While some of the players are veteran performers, for others this will mark their first public appearance.
These are the beginners, Grade 8 students from Porter Creek and F.H. Collins secondary schools who enrolled in their school band programs for the first time just three months ago.
In addition to the beginners, the All-City Band consists of a junior concert band, made up of Grade 9 and 10 students from the two schools, and a senior concert band, with Grade 11 and 12 students combined with adult players from the community.
And the beginners will be on the same stage as the people who gave them their first lessons in how to coax music from reluctant clarinets or trumpets at September’s “Squeak and Squawk” event.
“We start them on their instruments that night. They’re being taught by the senior band people,” explains Rebekah Bell, one of the program’s two music directors.
“Then, four years later, they’re in senior band sitting beside the people that started them, which is really cool for them.”
Bell’s husband, Bruce Johnson, is the program’s other music director. In a separate interview, he picks up on the same theme.
“The adults quite enjoy it. They get a real bang out of sitting with them in senior band, knowing that they started them three or four years prior,” Johnson says.
“It’s like hatching eggs, or whatever. Your chicks grow up and eventually they’re sitting beside you and playing music equally. Equal with talent, and equal with excitement. It just gets some natural caring things going on with the group.”
That inter-generational mentoring is what makes the All-City Band different from most other school-based band programs.
When Bell began teaching music at Porter Creek, the two schools had separate band programs, each with its own parent support group. A year later, Johnson arrived to teach at F.H. Collins.
“When Bruce moved here and we started working together, we said, ‘Why are we doing two separate things? This is double the work, double everything, so why don’t we merge them together and create one thing?'” Bell says.
“That was about 10 years ago that we did that, and it’s just grown since.”
When the two schools combined forces, some of the parents and other adults with fond memories of high school band saw an opportunity to pick up their instruments again.
“So this provides an opportunity for them, but it’s also a really good learning thing for the kids, because they see that this is lifelong. You can do this anywhere you go, and be part of a group anywhere you go, which is awesome,” Bell adds.
The December presentation represents the first public performance of the year for the junior and senior concert bands. Each spring, they participate in the Rotary Music Festival and sometimes travel to other festivals, in addition to school performances.
Music for a Winter’s Eve begins Monday, December 12 at the Yukon Arts Centre with what Bell calls “a variety of music, from marches to movie themes to Christmas songs and whatever.”
The Grade 8 band from F.H. Collins will perform that night, as well as the junior and senior concert bands.
The next evening will feature a different musical selection, with the Porter Creek beginners and jazz band playing, as well as the two concert bands.
Both performances begin at 7 p.m. and each will offer “a nice, relaxing evening of music,” Johnson promises.
“There’s no squeaking or squawking,” he jokes. “We left that behind in September.”