This year, Havergal’s Grade 8 Band had the opportunity to perform at the Toronto Kiwanis Festival, testing their musical skills at the city’s largest competitive classical music competition. The band had been diligently practising since January—both inside and outside the classroom—and their hard work paid off: they received a gold ranking.
The festival took place at Sir John A Macdonald Collegiate Institute in Scarborough and the competition was open to students all over the Greater Toronto Area, providing them a chance to perform in front of their peers and a panel of experts. “I was a bit nervous,” says Leila Agil, Grade 8, who has played the trumpet for four years. “But I always remind myself that being nervous means that you care and I really do care to play my best,” explained Agil.
The Grade 8’s winning performance consisted of two unique, but equally challenging compositions: Above the World by Rob Grice and Darklands March by Randall Standridge. “When competing at a festival, it is important to showcase to the adjudicators that the ensemble is able to play contrasting pieces, as it demonstrates that the performers are able to play a myriad of styles,” says Music Teacher Sara Spigott. Above the World is a dynamic, lyrical composition that showcased the student’s technical skills; Darklands March displayed their ability to keep up with a faster, more articulated piece.
When they began practising for the festival in January, Ms. Spigott’s Band students initially found the songs extremely challenging to learn and worked diligently—committing to additional rehearsals before school and during lunch—to perfect the piece. “It was a testament to their dedication that they were willing to come to school for a 7 am rehearsal,” says Ms. Spigott. Learning the song one movement at a time, the band students eventually grew an appreciation for the nuances of composition and were particularly taken to the energy and intensity of Darklands March. “It requires a lot of practise and patience,” explained Abbey McKee, Grade 8, whose passion for playing the clarinet began in Havergal’s Junior School Music program. “Sometimes it can feel impossible, but eventually it just clicks, which is a great feeling,” she says.
Apart from learning a new instrument, participating in the musical arts can build a sense of confidence that comes with pursuing your passions, in addition to the discipline and patience needed to develop a new skill. “Playing in the band has taught me to trust my instincts. It has made me more confident to do what I think it right,” says flutist Olivia Murnaghan, Grade 8.
Havergal’s Music program has a longstanding history with the festival, where at least one music group competes annually. Last year, the Symphonic Band won Platinum, as well as the “Best in Class” award for their category. Havergal’s success at the festival is a testament to the school’s dynamic Music program. “We are lucky to be a school that offers a Band, Vocal and Strings program, and have multiple opportunities for students to perform in ensembles,” says Ms. Spigott. Through these experiences, Havergal students develop a lifelong appreciation for music: a passion that they will enjoy for the rest of their lives.