A ♮ Talent for Music

Monday, November 11, 2019 - By: Sarah R, Mackenzie ‘20

Every year, the British Columbia Music Educators’ Association (BCMEA) holds a multi-day professional development conference in Vancouver. As part of the proceedings, the association organizes and facilitates multiple days of intensive rehearsal followed by an evening concert for the BCMEA honour ensembles. Students from all across BC are invited to submit auditions, and the top high school musicians from around the province are selected to sing or play in the honour ensembles, receiving top-quality instruction and training from amazing guest conductors. 

This year, three Brentwood students were accepted to play in these prestigious ensembles: Ankit B, Privett ‘21 played clarinet in the Honour Wind Ensemble, and Jonah M, Whittall ‘23 and I (Sarah R, Mackenzue ‘20) played first violin and viola respectively with the Honour String Ensemble.

The repertoire selected for these ensembles is challenging as well as engaging, and pushed all the students to stretch and develop their musical abilities. To prepare for this, a regional rehearsal for the string musicians from Vancouver Island was held at Brentwood in late September. Mr Tristan Clausen directed this rehearsal, and served as the coordinator for the honour string ensemble this year.

On Tuesday, October 22nd, the three students, along with Mr Clausen and RFA Ms Ackert, departed for Vancouver, instruments in hand. Wednesday and Thursday were long days of intensive rehearsal, from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm. Friday morning was filled with final tweaks and a dress rehearsal, and the concert was held Friday night. While I did not hear the wind ensemble on day one, I can say with certainty that the improvement made in the string ensemble from the first shaky run-through of our repertoire to the concert was impressive.

The guest conductor for the wind ensemble was Dr Gerard Morris, a professor and band director at the University of Puget Sound School of Music. He was honoured as the recipient of the President’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2016, and did not fall short in his work with the BCMEA Honour Wind Ensemble. This group was composed of an impressive number of students, and their Friday night concert rightfully moved the audience to a thunderous standing ovation.

The string ensemble had the honour of working with Dr Dijana Ihas, an Associate Professor of Music Education at Pacific University in Oregon. In addition to her teaching, Dr Ihas conducts the Pacific University Philharmonic Orchestra, and has received multiple awards for her excellence and achievement in both performance and teaching. She fearlessly approached the small group and challenging repertoire at BCMEA, and her enthusiasm and effective teaching did wonders to improve the orchestra. Mr Clausen said that this year’s string performance was “the best I’ve heard in years at BCMEA”, and told us that his opinion was corroborated by many other music teachers who approached him to voice the same message.

Many thanks to Mr Clausen for presenting this unique opportunity to play with and be taught by the best, and for supporting us in improving our musical understanding and ability. And for any puzzled non-musicians out there, let me bring clarity the title of this post: “♮” is a music symbol meaning “natural”!  

Sarah R, Mackenzie ‘20

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