>> write // st thomas more collegiate music dept newsletter // june 2004
June 9, 2004
Dear Parents and Student-Musicians,
It has been an exhilarating year here at St Thomas More Collegiate. With the school experiencing success at all levels with renewed enthusiasm in athletics, academics and now the arts, music has become an integral part of school life and culture.
We began the process of building the music program about this time last year when we went on an aggressive recruiting campaign for potential student-musicians and to announce the availability of a broader selection of music courses. Thanks to the generosity of the Parents Association, we were able to make significant upgrades to the music room. In particular, we carpeted the room and added sound baffling in order to improve the acoustics for rehearsals. We also added several percussion instruments, repaired some of the instruments the school already owned, updated the band repertoire library and started a choral repertoire library.
In order to facilitate communication with our community with the ongoing development of the program, celebration of successes, documentation of our performances and our journey together, we developed a website which can be found at http://music.stmc.bc.ca. We also initiated a monthly newsletter to student-musicians and parents to update them of our progress and inform them of major events. Archives of our newsletters can also be found on the website.
Our first performances included our choir singing Christmas Carols in community retirement homes as well as being featured at the 2003 Hyack Festival in New Westminster. This preparation enabled us to perform with ease at our featured showcase event dubbed "Fine Arts Night" on December 11, 2003 and held at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts which also included the beginner band. To display the reality that the Fine and Performing Arts were well supported and consistently thriving at the school, we included drama, visual, studio and media arts and guitar building in our programme.
During the fall season, we also had an opportunity to hold retreats and field trips in which we were able to get additional perspectives from other music educators in order to "fine tune our game." A highlight field trip included watching an open rehearsal with the Vancouver Chamber Choir directed by Jon Washburn. Our choral retreat happened on a late November Friday evening as we enjoyed the ideas presented by Frances Roberts, music educator in North Vancouver.
The spring season saw both the band and choir program in full preparation mode for the Whistler Music Festival. We performed a small concert for 2004 France exchange students at the end of February as well as an open rehearsal during our open house for prospective students. Our beginner band students went on a field trip to watch the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra rehearse.
In early March, with an additional influx of money courtesy of the Parents Association, we began outfitting the music room with additional percussion equipment and began the construction of a professional multi-track recording studio. This will enable us to produce compact discs of our performances in-house for sale and distribution to the community.
Early April saw band and choral retreats with David Fromager inspiring us with his knowledge of band instruments and Deanna Gestrin, a choral specialist, helping us with our music preparation for Whistler. The retreats were a particular highlight since they helped to build a bond between all of the student-musicians.
In order to service the school community, we also began the formation of a Music Ministry Team dedicated to providing the musical backdrop for school masses. Our high-spirited, energetic Praise and Worship style covering the best of contemporary Christian and Catholic music put a hint of modernity in our masses. We continually seek to inspire and encourage our student community to participate fully in our masses by lifting their spirits as ministers of music.
The highlight of our year has been our trip to the Whistler Music Festival. Over 2000 student-musicians brought together in a non-competitive atmosphere with the common goal of improving musicianship in a collegial way. A total of 72 STMC student-musicians and 7 chaperones were staying at the fabulous Whistler Cascade Lodge Hotel. Four days of non-stop packed activities which began with arrival on Thursday, Friday performances and adjudication workshops, a Friday evening dinner and dance, Saturday instrument-specific workshops, a Saturday-evening festival concert featuring the adjudicators and special guests performing for the student-musicians. To cap it off, Sunday morning included a massed choral and massed band performances where over 500 choristers and 1500 instrumentalists all sang and played together. We were invited by the organizer of the festival to provide music for a Catholic mass led by Father Justin Trinidad [no relation!] at which 400 Catholic student-musicians would attend. Our music ministry team, led by Laura Luongo, sprung into action and inspired the attendees with their songs.
We concluded the year with a very successful show at the Douglas College Performing Arts Theatre. We invited our feeder schools Our Lady of Mercy, St Francis de Sales, St Michaelís as well as neighboring Holy Cross elementary. "Celebration of the Arts II," as it was called, aimed to bring together in community the art of singing "one song". Indeed, all participants sang the tune "One Song" by Marvin Hamlisch to cap off the night.
For those students still considering joining the music program, it is not too late to join! Call me at the school to find out more information [604.521.1801 x 428]. Parents, we have big plans for next year and our Music Parents Committee needs your help! Contact Gina Luongo at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
We gratefully acknowledge the support of the administration and the Board of Directors for initiating a revival of the arts at St Thomas More Collegiate. Speaking personally, as music director, it brings me great joy to see the eyes of student-musicians light up after a successful performance, or getting through a particularly difficult passage of music. I aim to transfer within them the power of knowing that they have a God-given talent that they are meant to share with their community, to uplift and bring joy to others. The power of music is immeasurable and unquantifiable. It is a qualitative and emotional endeavour that seeks to personify in sound the feelings that people everywhere from every walk of life can understand.
On behalf of my student-musicians, thank you to everyone for a great year. We look forward, onward and upward for brighter and better things next year! Have a safe and restful summer. May God Bless you and your families.
Musically yours, as always,