Every year, the British Columbia Music Teachers’ Association holds a conference in Richmond, BC. For music teachers, this conference presents seminars on new teaching techniques and professional development. For their students, there is also an opportunity for enormous growth and education: the BCMEA honour ensembles.
There are five honour ensembles: Vocal Jazz, String Ensemble, Jazz Band, Concert Choir, and Wind Ensemble. To be considered for one of these groups of British Columbia’s top high school music students, applicants submitted recorded audio auditions last spring. This year, five Brentwood students were accepted to the string ensemble and one to the concert choir: Francis V, Ellis ’18, Maria R, Mackenzie ’19, Hayley F, Mackenzie ’19, Sarah R, Mackenzie ’20, and Mariko L, Mackenzie ’20 to the string ensemble, and Hannah R, Mackenzie ’18 to the choir. While each of these students looked forward to performing with some of the best high school musicians in the province, the three who auditioned and were accepted last year – Francis, Maria, and Hannah – were particularly excited because they knew what a exceptional experience being in an honour ensemble is.
In September, each ensemble had one day of rehearsal, giving students the tools to practice individually for the following month. These rehearsals were done by region, so Brentwood students had the opportunity to meet and practice with the musicians from Vancouver Island before the conference.
Last week in Richmond, each honour ensemble rehearsed for two and a half days, led by the incredibly accomplished conductors that the BCMEA selects. The rehearsals were long, but hugely rewarding and educational. There is no better way to improve one’s own performance than to play or sing with others who are more skilled and more experienced than oneself; every one of the students who was in the BCMEA honour ensembles learned an enormous amount over the course of those three days.
Finally, on Friday and Saturday nights, the student experience of the BCMEA conference culminated in two concerts: Friday’s including the string ensemble, and Saturday’s including the concert choir. Both performances went well and exemplified the heights that passionate young musicians can achieve.
Thank you very much to Mr. Clausen for helping his students improve to a level where we could join the honour ensembles, pushing us to audition, and taking us to Richmond! As well, we appreciate Ms. Widenmaier travelling to watch the string ensemble perform and to take the strings players back to school.
Good luck to those students who will be eligible to audition next year!
Hannah R, Mackenzie ‘18