There’s still a few squeaks and squawks, but the kids in Marcy Racicot’s Grade 6 band class at Valley Manor School in Martensville have almost got “Hot Cross Buns” down pat.
“It’s three notes,” said Racicot with a grin. “That’s where we start. Once the kids learn the basics, they advance very quickly and it’s a real joy to see how fast they progress.”
Meanwhile, across town at Venture Heights School, the students in Tanya Robertson’s Grade 6 band class are also getting the feel of their new instruments.
“The kids are so excited,” said Robertson. “The biggest challenge is channelling their enthusiasm. With 25 students in a classroom it can get pretty loud.”
This is the first year for school band programs in both Martensville elementary schools, and it’s a huge hit, not just with the students, but also the teachers and community as a whole.
Robertson said when she transferred to Venture Heights School last year, principal Ron Biberdorf approached her about starting up a band program. Coincidentally, Racicot was also tagged to initiate the band program at Valley Manor by principal Garth Harrison when she transferred to that school. Both Robertson and Racicot have worked together to coordinate the band programs and share resources at both schools where possible.
The program at Venture Heights currently includes Grades 6 and 7 students, while the Valley Manor band program includes Grades 5, 6 and 7 kids. The long-range objective is to work with Martensville High School to develop a band program so the students in elementary school now can continue their musical education down the road.
“The interest is definitely there,” said Robertson. “The kids are in love with the idea of playing in a band. I had some kids yesterday who took their instruments home and practiced for two and a half hours, even though they really don’t have any idea how to play them.”
Robertson said learning to read music and play an instrument is a big benefit to students, but they also learn so much more by being part of a school band.
“I think back to my own experience, and all the different skills I picked up without even realizing it when I was in the school band,” she said. “You become part of a team, you learn to work together setting up and taking down the chairs and music stands, you learn to listen to each other and play together to make something special.”
Valley Manor School Principal Garth Harrison said introducing music as a core part of the curriculum in the school gives students another opportunity to express themselves.
“The nice thing about this program is the students don’t have to sacrifice any other classes in order to take band,” said Harrison.
Racicot said most of the kids enrolled in band have no previous experience with music lessons.
“Some of them do, and they have a bit of a head start when it comes to reading music,” she said. “But they learn quickly, and it’s really nice when they discover a talent they didn’t know they had.”
Both schools had some initial expenses for music stands, percussion instruments and other essentials. The parents either provide their kids with hand-me-down instruments, or they buy or rent them.
“Lots of times the student ends up playing trumpet or clarinet because that’s what mom or dad played, and they still have their old instrument to pass on,” said Racicot.
Both schools are planning to hold Christmas concerts with the bands, as well as participate in local music festivals and other events during the year.