Last Sunday night, two coach busses full of exhausted teenagers pulled up into the parking lot of our school. Having left at 6 AM the previous Friday, our bands (both concert and symphonic) had returned from Edmonton. We were absolutely pooped and dreading having to go to school the next day; the weekend had been jam-packed, with barely a moment’s rest in between events and activities. The bus rides there and back had been long and monotonous. Sleep deprivation had taken its toll. Burnout was evident in our minds and bodies.
But we were happy!
At least, I was. Despite having had to do inhumane amounts of math homework throughout the trip, I couldn’t have been feeling any better. This was my very first band trip with this particular band at this particular school, and it honestly exceeded my expectations.
The One Class that Makes School Suck a Little Less (I Made Friends!!!!)
Before the school year even started, I was already petrified by high school. I knew it was going to be crazy and terrifying, and my internal dialogue for the first few
weeks days was a perpetual scream. Luckily, I had band class, both concert rehearsals in the mornings and woodwind class during the day, to anchor me. During junior high, band was one of my most favourite experiences, and I made a lot of really close friends and cherished memories. I felt at home in a band. Nothing quite like the comforting sounds of reed-slurping, spit-valve-emptying, and flutes shrieking (through both their instruments and vocal chords) to make one feel at ease.
You see, band isn’t just a bunch of random people haphazardly slapped together to form a group of instrument-wielding maniacs.
Okay, fine, that’s exactly what it is.
But that’s not the point!
The point is that, band, for me, has always meant family. A group of likeminded people united under the common epithet of ‘Band Geek’, a name which we roll our eyes at but actually love being known by. We’re a couple of kids who thought that playing music might be worth a shot, and then actually stuck around with it. And through music, all the Balmages and Ticheli that we’ve plowed through (and totally slaughtered, haha), we’ve found companionship with each other. Understanding and trust and camaraderie. Yes, I will help you wheel the timpanis into the gym; yes, I will sneakily lend you my pencil when the conductor is doing pencil checks; yes, I will help you tie your tie even though you’ve been doing it for years and should know how to do it by now. (For the record, I am not able to tie a tie. I think I have tie-amnesia.) Throughout the countless band rehearsals, performances, and camps that we do, people in a band come to develop mutual friendship, respect, and love.
Yes, love, even for the oboes.
During this trip,we
were forced got to spend something like close to 75 hours together all at once. And it’s kinda hard not to bond with people when you’re with them every day for three days. I definitely feel like I got closer to some friends during this band trip, and made some new ones, too! Overall it was a super fun and productive trip, and I am eagerly looking forward to future ones.
Now, read on for a recap of Edmonton Band Trip 2017!
Day 1: AIBF & Clinics
It all started on a dark and stormy night. Except it wasn’t stormy, only dark, and it wasn’t night, but roughly 6Am in the morning. In our half-asleep states, we managed to load the coaches without leaving anyone behind, and then were on our way. The bus ride there was relatively unremarkable, as I, like a proper IB plebeian, did math homework for most of it.
When we got to Edmonton, it was right off to the races at AIBF. We stowed our instruments away for a bit to listen to a couple of other schools’ bands play, accidentally angered an adjudicator by walking into the auditorium during a band’s performance time (luckily, they were in between places at the time), and tried to sit quiet as mice and not fall asleep as we were subjected to the wondrous noises of an assortment of bands with an assortment of skill levels.
Before long, symphonic band went up to play. And as usual, they slayed the game, woot woot! Us tiny kids in concert band were joking all throughout lunch break that it was too bad that we had to play after symphonic, because we’d ruin the reputation they’d just built up for our school. To compound this, we were approached by no less than four students and parent volunteers from different bands, telling us how amazing we were.
It went something like:
Innocent, clueless student/volunteer: (Looking at our concert band uniforms, which happen to be the same as symphonic’s) “Oh, are you guys Churchill? You guys were so great out there! Good job!”
Us: “Oh, no, that wasn’t-”
Them: “Once again, congratulations on the outstanding work!!!” (Exit)
It was great. Gotta love riding someone else’s success wave!
Thankfully, I don’t think concert band tarnished Churchill’s reputation too badly. Summer Resounding was, well, pretty much as good as it could get. Meanwhile, Phantom of Dark Hollow was definitely improved from our past performances. Voyageurs was, as claimed by our clinician and agreed upon by most, our best piece. I mean, I personally don’t like it that much because after the halfway point of the second movement, flutes don’t get any rest until the end and we have to play until our tongues basically fall out of our mouths. Shoutout to my fellow flutes for not keeling over dead after all those sixteenth note runs in the third movement. Y’all give me strength.
(Okay, so this sort of an aside, but I thought it was amusing, so here’s a lil story.)
I’m not sure how many other people in the band noticed, but at AIBF, when concert band was in the audience listening to other bands, the MC/guy/announcer/person was introducing himself as Jason, but then when we went on to play, there was a completely different guy. Who also introduced himself as Jason. Now, I’m not sure if it’s just a coincidence, because it’s totally possible that there just happened to be two Jasons working for the same company and doing the same job on the same day. Or, maybe they were both reading off a script and couldn’t be bothered to correct the name.
But wait, that’s not all. Two Jasons did not seem to be enough for this trip. You see, the man who helped us record our CD later on at the Winspear Centre was also named Jason. And then there’s one of our concert tubas, also named- you guessed it- Jason.
I’m not saying there was something weird going on, but there was something a little weird going on. Don’t trust the Jasons, y’all, they have strength enough in numbers to take over the world.
The Most Beautiful Cover of My Heart Will Go On that I Have Ever Heard in My Life
After AIBF, we went to a local college to have separate woodwind-brass practices for the rest of the afternoon. We were already run ragged and half asleep, but somehow managed to keep going anyways, because musicians are strange and powerful creatures.
The full repercussions of the exhaustion didn’t show up until later, when me and Felicia started co-playing my flute (I was blowing, she was playing the keys), doing extremely bad rendition of My Heart Will Go On from the Titanic movie.
I am so sorry.
After driving all our bandmates deaf with this (it’s a miracle nobody put us out of misery then and there), we returned to our hotel for the most long-awaited event of the entire day: dinner! Featuring condiments served with too-large spoons! People were making all sorts of lovely, attractive faces after tasting the amount of vinaigrette they had soaked their salad with, and I think I dumped about fifty cups of parmesan on my spaghetti.
The Nightmare Clinician
After dinner, we headed back to the college again, where I had the worst clinician experience of my life. I think our clinician actually took ten years off my life with all the frustration.
The first thing he did was yell at us. For putting our cases down the wrong way, for starting to put our flutes together before he gave us permission, and for putting our flutes down on the table the wrong way. Actual, literal, explosive, seriously rude yelling. What a great first impression that made!
And you know how clinicians usually get the players to run through pieces once or twice to get a feeling of our skill level and familiarity with the piece, so they can start helping us where we needed it? Well, not this guy. He dove straight in, playing our pieces all wrong without even consulting us on the intended style and tempo, or asking us if we had anything we wanted to cover. He then went on to ‘teach’ us how to sight read pieces we’d already been doing for months. And by teaching, I mean that he played our pieces like he was doing a solo concert- except with all the wrong articulations and questionable tone quality.
He also randomly blew into people’s faces to make his points, and told me to envision “being kicked in the butt” in order to play forte-pianos- which, had I not specifically asked him to give us pointers on, he wouldn’t even have thought to touch on. And then when I asked him for more specific advice on the forte-piano, he gave me this very vague and irrelevant answer: “Think about the density of tone”. Density of tone? What does that even mean? And what does it have to do with playing forte-pianos? To answer these questions, he only repeated “density of tone” a couple more times, as if the repetition would allow me to understand the concept. It was then that I became convinced that tone was not the only dense thing that he had.
I am truly sorry to the other flutes in the room who had to be subjected to the glorious bitch face I started wearing at about the halfway point of the clinic. I’ll have more control over my facial expression next time, promise!
Alright, alright. Complaining aside, I’ll admit that the clinician wasn’t pure evil incarnated, and he did give us some helpful pointers.
And on the funny side of things, when he asked us to name materials that flutes have been made out of, I said bone, which was a correct answer, but then when he pressed me for more specifics, I panicked and said “human bone”. Cue laughter from the other flutes as they wondered why that particular type of bone was what had come to mind. Apparently the clinician had been talking about mammoth bone, but y’know what, my good ol’ brain just did not think to think of that.
- Fun fact: human bone flutes are a real thing! Ancient Tibetan flutes made from human thigh bones can be found in museums. Flutists don’t mess around.
Day 2: Telus World of Science, CD Recording, & Symphony
On Saturday morning, we woke up at the delightful hour of 6AM to get down to breakfast at 7AM. After copious volumes of coffee (free from our hotel rooms, kinda disgusting and only drinkable after ghastly amounts of sugar and whitener, how delightful), my roommates and I were in presentable shape to amble downstairs for breakfast.
Post-breakfast, the concert band headed to the Telus World of Science, where I snapped this sweet photo of my lovely friend, Felicia.
Funnily enough, what I ended up spending the most time on weren’t even the exhibits. They were those mind-game thingies in the hallways between the exhibits; the ones where you had to fit a punch of plastic pieces into the shape of a square, transport rings of different sizes from one location to another, and my favourite, the one where you had to put 9 numbers into rows so that each row equalled 15.
In the afternoon, we went to record a CD of a few of our pieces at the Winspear Centre. It was a fantastic facility, and it was super fun to listen to ourselves with the (supposedly ear-sweat-covered) headphones afterwards.
- Fun fact: famous rock band the Rolling Stones recorded songs in the exact same studio that we did. So, basically, our band is a rock band.
After the three hour long recording, my mouth felt like the Saharan desert and my brain was even more dry and devoid of life- but it was great! There’s just something about recording in a professional studio that really tickles one’s ego. Even if the flutes did sound nastily airy in the playbacks.
In Which I Really Needed to Cough Throughout the Whole Symphony, But Held It In the Entire Time Because It Would’ve Been Rude to Go Hacking During the Cello Solo
That night, we went to a Brahms-Dvořák symphony. The cello soloist, Edgar Moreau, was absolutely amazing! And he’s only twenty-two years old. Makes me wonder what I’m doing with my life.
(The answer: staying up until 1:30 in the morning doing math homework in my hotel room, because I believe that life should not be fun.)
(I’m not crying, you are.)
Day 3: Section Leader Awards, Art Gallery, Crazy For You
On Sunday morning, all 120-something band kids, plus the teachers and volunteers, congregated together in the dining room on the ninth floor of our hotel for a ceremonial event: the annual Section Leader Awards. Basically, section leaders had to prepare gifts (aka ‘roasts’, as our teachers called them) for members of their sections. They were meant to be funny and endearing, a sort of treat for the players at the end of the band trip.
I was lucky enough to be the concert flute section leader this year, so I’d prepared a little something for my flute pals. However, what I wasn’t told beforehand was that we were supposed to have mini speeches for when we went up to present our awards. Me and May, the low woodwind section leader, spent most of that morning freaking out over it. Luckily, neither of us bombed our improv’d speeches too spectacularly; I was too nervous to remember much, but I’m pretty sure I said something along the lines of “good job on your faces” to my section. Nailed it!
Speech stress aside, being the total award-giving noob I was, I went with the super duper creative option of giving my section members candy. And plastic squawkers, because we’re flutes, which means you could swap out our instruments for those things and not be able to tell the difference in the sound. And also note cards with really horrible puns, because I am the singular most embarrassing person you will ever meet.
There wasn’t anything sacrilegiously, unforgivably wrong with what I’d gotten, but it sure paled in comparison to what some other section leaders chose to gift:
Handmade t-shirts with jokes only band geeks would get, friendship necklaces, a ‘Best Mom Ever’ mug, engraved keychains, Despicable Me minion-printed goodie bags (because one section, like said minions, were all yellow), hairspray “because your hair’s a mess”, and a copy of The Communist Manifesto were just a few of the hilarious and creative gifts given that day. It was amazing. Seriously, I hope I’m section leader again next year just so I can up my roast game.
Then, after the gifts were all distributed, our conductors went up to present pins for outstanding students in both bands in all sorts of different categories. From highest mark to most improved to sergeant to best fundraiser, each and every recipient was met with lots of applause and admiration from their peers. Great job to everyone who received one, you deserve it for all your hard work and dedication to the band program!
After section leader awards, it was time to visit the Art Gallery of Alberta. Naturally, my inner art hoe was so pumped for this.
The exhibit ‘The Looking Glass’ with all the portraits and super realistic, semi-creepy statues of the heads was definitely my favourite. Here is the curator’s statement (found on the AGA website because, yes, I went and looked for it):
“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter.” – Oscar Wilde, author and playwright
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture of a person is like a thorough introduction. A detailed description by definition, a portrait conveys a lot about its sitter: their character, stature, pursuits and emotions. Through a representation, we come to know the featured face intimately. Similarly, a portrait says something of its maker, showing the perspectives and insights of the artist who captures the subject’s likeness or interprets their character.
A portrait isn’t only a capturing of the subject’s appearance, but also an inside look into the artist’s feelings and thoughts. In my opinion, this statement (how amazing is it though, props to the curator for a phenomenal gallery and description!) is applicable to all art, not just portraits. An important part of why art is so timeless and alluring is because it’s largely made up of the projections of the inner workings of the artist. When you look at art, you’re looking at the artist, as a human being, in dimensions and mediums and facets that could never exist without their art.
Plus there was the fact that each of the hairs on the sculptures had been individually stuck into them. That was pretty impressive.
Other than ‘The Looking Glass’ exhibit, the ‘Survival Guide’ exhibit was also a standout, particularly the work of artist Patrick Cruz. His display was basically a huge room covered from wall to wall with huge, loud, colourful, abstract paintings on rectangles of canvas cloth. Our tour guide said that the artist was inspired by his hometown of Manila, the busy, crowded volume and vibrancy of the city.
There were also sculptures, placed at intervals on the ground, that looked to be effigies. The only clearly identifiable thing was a bird standing on the bars of a birdcage, and everything else was pretty much unrecognizable; for example, another one of the sculptures looked like a pile of bulbous, misshapen wax drippings.
All of it was viscerally splattered with generous amounts of paint.
Photo Source (btw, the photos really don’t do any justice to the enormity and colour of the art in real life)
To be honest, I thought the exhibit to be overwhelming and disturbing. There was something awfully imbalanced and uncanny about the paintings that overlapped like crudely sewn patchwork, and something downright chilling about the almost grotesque, abstract statues.
And that was exactly what made it so great!
The thing about modern art that can be hard to grasp is that it’s meant to make you feel a certain way, and that feeling is not always intended to be harmonious, happy, or satisfied.
Would I have ever tried painting like this artist? Nope. Did I leave that exhibit feeling more unsettled than when I entered it? Uh huh. But was it memorable, impactful, and artistic nonetheless? Absolutely!
I Still Have I Got Rhythm Stuck in My Head
After grabbing lunch, we went to see a musical production at the Citadel Theatre. The show we saw was Crazy For You, a Gershwin-Ludwig romantic comedy that first debuted in 1992. It was a stunning performance, with amazing musical and dance numbers (how did those people not get breathless, wow) and hilarious dialogue.
- Sidenote, for any other tenth graders who got a sense of déjà vu from listening to the number I Got Rhythm, it’s because it was in that video we watched in class when learning about the sonata-allegro music form. The one where the dude used the metaphor of the mall building with the pet shop (or something like that, I wasn’t really paying attention so correct me if I’m getting it horribly wrong).
All Good Things Must Come to an End
After the musical, it was time to go home. And no, not back to the hotel, which I’d already started to accidentally call home. Back home home. Already! I swear to God that we only spent five minutes total in Edmonton. Where did that three days go?
A Wrap on Edmonton 2017
A huge, ginormous, monumental thank you goes out to the teachers and parent volunteers who made this trip- and all of the band program- possible. It’s really thanks to their constant hard work that we are able to attend the festivals, CD recordings, and performances, and have a fabulous time while doing it. Band trips aren’t obligatory things, but we somehow have the amazing privilege of having the opportunity to go on them year after year, and they never disappoint!
I think I can speak for all us band kids when I say: THANK YOU FOR ALL THAT YOU DO!!!
Finally, thanks to all for an unforgettable band trip and a great first year in high school band. The next two years are going to go by super fast, and I can’t wait to make more extraordinary memories with all of you!
Until next time, thank you so much for reading!
P.S. We won stuff!
(Taken from the SWC Music Department FB page)