Island schools shine at Kiwanis Music Festival

Central Manitoulin Public School students brought home gold at the Kiwanis Music Festival held in Sudbury last week. Manitoulin in general was well represented at the competition, garnishing two gold medals in the choral competition, a silver in band and a gold in solo completion.

SUDBURY—Manitoulin public schools had a very respectable showing at the annual Kiwanis Music Festival in Sudbury last week, bringing home two gold medals in the choral competition, a silver in band and a gold in solo competition.

On Monday, March 24, Assiginack band students, comprised of 20 Grade 7 and 8 students, travelled to Sudbury to perform two pieces before the adjudicator: ‘Ghost Ship’ and the classical piece ‘Air and Caprice.’

Music teacher Ray Scott said the band practiced “really, really hard” and a great deal before the annual competition, which is only the second year for the Assiginack band.

“The adjudicator described them as ‘excellent’,” Mr. Scott explained, noting that he also “put them through their paces.”

“They really responded well under pressure,” he added.

The students also got the chance to use their brand new instruments, which arrived only the week before thanks to a $10,000 MusiCounts grant, “which was an added extra cache,” the teacher said.

“We got a very respectable mark of 84 percent (a silver standing) for only a second-year band,” he continued, noting that Assiginack competed alongside bands that have been playing for much longer.

The following day, Tuesday, March 25, a group of Grade 8 students from Central Manitoulin Public School (CMPS) also travelled to Sudbury to compete in the Kiwanis Music Festival.

The students performed in the Elementary School Large Percussion Ensemble and performed a four-minute djembe drum piece, earning them an 89 percent mark and a gold standing in their category.

“The piece originated because I wanted to do something different for their Christmas concert, rather then just singing or performing a Christmas skit,” explained music teacher Erica Wadman. “It started with simple rhythms and a lot of repetition and hard work. Since December we’ve developed it exponentially, adding many new rhythms and techniques to spice it up and make it more colourful.”

Since then, Ms. Wadman explained, the ensemble has had the opportunity, and privilege, to play many different venues; the first was the MSS Christmas concert.

“We participated in the One Billion Rising Campaign, supporting the fight to stop violence against women held in Little Current, and finally in the Sudbury Kiwanis Music festival,” Ms. Wadman continued. “Some of our next performances include our very own CMPS volunteer appreciation dinner, and then Music Monday at MSS in May.”

“The students have been so excited to expand their skills and to share their new found talent with their community,” she continued. “They are all eager, and willing, and extremely proud of their accomplishments, always looking for and asking when their next performance will be.”

Fellow Grade 8 CMPS student William Scott also participated in the Kiwanis Music Festival as a solo trombonist. Under the tutelage of Chris Theijsmeijer, William worked hard at Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ and also earned a gold ranking from the adjudicators.

On Friday, the Assiginack Public School choir braved the snowy conditions to have their turn before the judges at Kiwanis.

The band of 46 students from Grades 1 through 6 worked very hard for a number of months at John Williams’ ‘Dry Your Tears Africa’ from the Amistad soundtrack.

“It’s a beautiful piece,” Mr. Scott said.

He explained that he spoke to the students about slavers taking people away from their native Africa but that this was a song of rejoicing in that it was about slaves coming home.

The song was sung in the African language of Mende, which he said the kids picked up with relative ease.

“The accompaniment was fiercely difficult and was done by Marilyn Wohlberg,” he said. “She was wonderful for us.”

For their efforts, the Assiginack choir was awarded an 87 percent and a gold.

One of the parents, upon leaving the competition, made the remark to the music teacher that the performance “gave her chills,” which Mr. Scott said pleased him no end.

When asked if working with a choir with such a range in age proved difficult, Mr. Scott responded “not at all.”

“I assigned the voice parts according to ability, not by age” he said, explaining that everybody could be in the choir and noting that there is a “certain charm” to older and younger children performing together.