Those yearning to hear the oom pa pa of brass, crash of cymbals and thrum of strings need look no further than Bandfest at the University of Victoria this month. The three-day event draws more than 30 local and visiting bands, and those who love the vibrant big band sound.
For Oak Bay High music director Jeff Weaver, rounding up the troops and heading to Bandfest has become a rite of passage.
Weaver began his career at Oak Bay High and did stints at Rockheights and Central middle schools before returning to Oak Bay. He’s brought band students to UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium in each of his 10 years teaching music in the Greater Victoria School District.
This year’s edition of the school band adjudication and performance experience, happening March 5-7, is no different. It’s always about learning, in a way that goes beyond working on compositions in the comfort of the school band room, Weaver says.
“We get to listen to other bands play, which is something we don’t get to do normally,” he says. “The key is to get kids to listen in an interactive way, not a passive way. And they get to be heard by people other than their parents, which is good.”
Mike Keddy works with musicians of various ages as director of the UVic Don Wright Symphonic Winds and the Greater Victoria Concert Band. He is one of two adjudicators who will listen, critique and offer tips to each of the bands participating. The other is David Becker, director emeritus of bands at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore.
Stressing that the event is “non-competitive,” Keddy also emphasizes the learning aspect for the students, who span from Grade 6 to Grade 12. That age and experience range requires that he and Becker take varying approaches to their adjudications and comments.
“We tend to talk more global and have more fun with kids at the younger ages, and more technical and more direct to the groups that are more at a senior level,” he says. “They don’t need to talk more notes and rhythms, we talk to them about things like nuance and balance.”
A half dozen or so local middle and high school bands are registered for the event, which is free and open to the public. While it is not a contest, students and band directors hardwired to learning tend to take it seriously and take the comments of the adjudicators to heart, as if it were a competition.
“It’s a showcase of the incredible opportunities that students have and the incredible talent that they are able to show,” Keddy says.
For those of Weaver’s senior students considering registering for the music program at UVic, playing onstage in the acoustically sound Farquhar venue can prompt them to imagine, ‘I could be playing here every day.’
“I think that’s a huge draw,” he says. “It’s
a chance for me to show them what the next level is.”