Gold is the colour of success for the Prince Rupert Middle School Jazz and Concert Bands after returning first-time, first-place B.C. champions from the MusicFest competition in Niagara Falls.
Band leader Kristy Tillman said she is so proud of the efforts each young musician put in at the invitational music match, which was held from May 15 to 19. It was the first time any of the students had attended the event, where more than 279 bands and 7,000 students participated from across the country.
“Students are rated on their playing ability and both groups, Jazz and Concert Band, were awarded gold,” Tillman said, adding when she researched the awards, she found it was the first time a middle school in B.C. had won the gold placements.
The students’ performance was so top-notch, at one point, the middle school band was awarded the silver plaque in the seniors’ division of the competition for ages 14 to 17 year-olds. When it was discovered they had been judged incorrectly in a harder category for older students the joy of competing was even more prevalent for the under 14-year-old group. The error was corrected and they were awarded first place in their correct category with a special distinction of “gold and beyond.”
“The judges were super impressed with them,” the band instructor said.
On top of the group division gold awards for Instrumental Jazz Band and Concert Band, Tillman said, one student in each band is selected to receive a distinctive honour award.
Hitting the high note of the competition Kiri Orton received the honour award for her clarinet efforts in concert band and Ayla Haukness received the honour award for electric guitar skills.
Percussionist Charlie Abecia, who has been drumming for four years, said it was wonderful winning, but for her, the best part of the trip was just being able to play. She said her parents encourage her and are very supportive. She jokingly said has yet to hear what her neighbours think of her drumming, but is going to continue playing.
Shawn Pettitt is a trumpet player in the band and said the experience of travelling to the competition is one he will remember as he had never been on a plane so big as the one flying to Toronto and he enjoyed being able to share the experience with his friends.
In downtime, the Prince Rupert students were able to tour around Niagara Falls to see some sites and were able to spend the day at Canada’s Wonderland, not just screaming about their band’s success but at the rollercoasters as well.
Tillman said the cost was around $2,500 for each student who assisted with fundraising. She said city residents and businesses were so generous they couldn’t have made the trip without the phenomenal community support.