Thursday, March 15, 2012

Band Festival

I was in Winnipeg, Canada this week to adjudicate the Manitoba Band Association's Optimist Festival.  The three other adjudicators were Greg Gatien (Brandon University), Ashley Summers (Indiana University) and my former professor, Gordon Foote (McGill University).  Here is a photo of us following our dinner break on the second day:


For two days straight we evaluated and worked with bands from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m..  I believe there were forty-eight groups in all.  It was exhausting but also invigorating to instruct enthusiastic young people and their dedicated teachers.

Repeatedly I was asked, "How do the bands in Manitoba compare to groups in the Northeastern U.S.?"  Honestly, I think the range is quite similar.  Both have their fair share of excellent groups, weaker groups and everything in the middle.

For those who may not know, I grew up in Winnipeg and participated in this festival annually as a youth.  This was my second time returning to adjudicate.  It was a nice reminder of where I came from, and how far I've come.  I could see a young version of myself in some of the teenage pianists.  Being reminded that there was a time when I too naively played exuberant glissandi and Little Richard licks within Count Basie charts, helps me to be encouraging rather than scathing in my role of guiding, steering and educating these young people.

On a similar train of thought, over drinks, Gordon Foote shared with me that after my audition for the undergraduate jazz program at McGill (back in 1988), much debate ensued amongst the faculty before I was admitted.  Then, following the first combo concert in my freshman year, he and Kevin Dean agreed that they "might have made a mistake in admitting me."  I do believe that divine intervention played a significant role in my acceptance, but it also feels good knowing that my hard work and dedication paid off.  As an educator, this too serves as a good reminder, both as I audition/select students and as I try to work patiently with the late bloomers.

Ever up and onward.

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