Musical buzz at Crescent
Students at Crescent Collegiate in Blaketown have something to sing about — and a bunch of new equipment to accompany them.
The Grade 7 to Level III school was recently awarded a $ 10,000 Band Aid grant for new musical instruments from CARAS (Canadian Association of Recording Arts and Science).
“We were one of three schools (in the province) to receive the grant,” says music specialist Robert Colbourne. “I think we were one of 40something grants across Canada and there were hundreds that applied.”
To make its case, the school enlisted the support of community, parents, students and government.
“Our application was a binder this thick,” Colbourne says, holding his thumb and forefinger about two inches apart . “We a lso made YouTube videos.”
Much of the school’s older musical equipment had been acquired after area schools, like St. George’s in New Harbour, closed. Aging instruments constantly in need of repair can be discouraging for students and frustrating for teachers. The repair bills had Colbourne wondering if it wasn’t better to just buy new instruments.
But now, thanks to CARAS, the school will be getting new drums, bass guitars, clarinets, saxophones and flutes.
“We’re very, very fortunate to have received that grant. It will help us out a long way.”
Meanwhile, Crescent’s vocal ensemble has been selected to represent the province at the Unisong Choral Festival in Ottawa on Canada Day, where a choir from each province will perform. The ensemble wil l join choirs from other provinces for a performance of Canadian music, led by well-known conductor Dr. Victoria Meredith.
While there, they’ll perform at the Beaumont Hamel ceremony and sing at various venues in the city during the five-day trip.
Runner-up in the 2012 Choral Rose Bowl at the Carbonear Kiwanis Music Festival, the group has also performed at the grand opening of Ronald McDonald House in September 2012.
Crescent first opened its doors to students in 2000. For a relatively young school, the music program has much to offer and Colbourne attributes that to the “highly qualified teachers” who came before him.
“Carla Roberts spent six or seven years working really hard building up the program and before her there was Rob Lee, the school’s first music teacher here.”
More than half of the 550 students participate in the music program. Some of them take mandatory courses, but about 175 are voluntarily involved.
Art courses are also compulsory and students spend part of the year doing art, the other half music.
“We did a spring musical last year called Dancing Through the Decades and that was put together with the artwork, the drama and the music,” Colbourne says. “So it’s a busy place; the kids don’t stop much.”
Crescent Collegiate Concert Band won the Kiwanis Music festival’s inaugural Instrumental Rose Bowl and received Best Performance by a Concert Band in 2012.
“We’re very, very fortunate to have received that grant. It will help us out a long
way.” — Robert Colbourne, music teacher, Crescent Collegiate
The band has increased from 28 members to 34. Interest is fuelled, Colbourne says, because feeder schools have strong band programs.
“And we had a big blitz last year where our band got together in Whitbourne for a day and we played for all th e elementary schools. We also brought in the Grade 6s from all the feeder schools and they performed in the spring concert with Crescent high school students last year.”
More than a hundred students make up the concert choir, which focuses on contemporary pop music — “stuff they like to sing, moreso than traditional.”
More music options
In addition, the school has introduced some new components: guitar lessons for Grade 9 students, a recently formed jazz band and a fiddle group. The idea for the fiddle group came as a result of the strong feeder school system.
“Epiphany Elementary and Woodland schools offered violin lessons to the students. When they got here, all of a sudden they had no strings to go to, so I thought I’d try to get a fiddle program going.”
The high school music course is more rock and roll based, Colbourne says, which, when added to the mix, gives students a bit of everything from traditional to pop.
“So there’s an outlet for every type of student who wants it and a lot of them are in all outlets.”
The only damper seems to lie in geographical distance. Crescent takes in students from Heart’s Desire to Bellevue area, about 85 kilometres from one end to the other. That makes it a little difficult to get in after-school practice.
“So our choir program takes place in the school day. Our vocal ensemble at lunch time and since they’re going away to Ottawa and they have an awful lot of music to learn we’ve also added one day after school,” says Colbourne. “The band meets on Thursdays after school till 4 and then the jazz band goes from 4 to 5. Our fiddle group meets lunchtime.”
But this year it’s been much easier to hold after-school rehearsals because the school also received a grant for physical fitness and healthy living.
“So there’s a bus that runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school, for activities in the gym. So some of our band or choir students can just hop on the bus.”
Music specialist Robert Colbourne has been heading up Crescent Collegiate’s music program for the past two years.
The Crescent Collegiate Band spent many hours recently rehearsing for the Carbonear Kiwanis Music Festival. The band is made up of 38 members who perform a variety of songs.