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North Van band students called up to big leagues

May 08, 2019

By: Maria Spitale-Leisk, North Shore News

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Select North Vancouver band students have qualified for the Super Bowl of the symphony world.

Every year for the past two decades, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra has performed a joint concert with the North Vancouver School District’s honour band and honour string orchestras.

Entry is by audition-only and each year only a select number of local elementary students successfully make it into the honour bands.

Ridgeway Elementary Grade 7 student Marea Belleville fell in love with the baritone saxophone a few year ago.

“In Grade 5, I played the sax in the band, and after lots of practising we went to Sutherland high school to play a zone concert,” says Belleville. “When it was the Sutherland band’s turn a girl came in with a baritone sax and I fell in love with the instrument.”

Beethoven tops Belleville’s list of favourite composers “because he let nothing stop him.”

“Even though he was deaf he still wrote amazing music,” she adds.

Belleville tried out for honour band because she thought it would be an amazing experience to perform with great musicians and play more challenging music.

Fellow honour band member Atrisa Tashakorinia became hooked on classical music after her parents took her to a concert that showcased many instruments.

“And when they started playing the violin, that’s when I realized that violin is the instrument that I love to play and ever since I’ve been playing the violin,” says Tashakorinia, a Canyon Heights Elementary Grade 6 student with aspirations of becoming a professional violinist.

Performing alongside the VSO musicians is a thrill for Tashakorinia, who has found confidence through this mentorship.

“It feels great hearing myself play with professional players and I have learned a lot from them,” she says.
Upper Lynn Elementary band teacher Bill Piggott is the rehearsal conductor of the school district’s honour band comprised of Grade 6 and 7 students.

This special program, says Piggott, offers the students a chance to play much more challenging music than they would ever see in their regular school band programs.

A valuable component of honour band is that it supports sectional rehearsals of just one group of instruments, led by both school district teachers and VSO musicians.

The honour band students have met for several weeks at a local high school, rehearsed alongside top-notch VSO musicians in close quarters, and been guided by VSO assistant conductor William Rowson.

Then comes the real treat for the precocious musicians: a joint concert with their VSO counterparts, which is being held this evening at Centennial Theatre.

“It’s definitely an enriched musical experience where they can be inspired by the music and gain insight into the lives of working musicians,” says Piggott.

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