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Okotoks school band delivers undeniable performance

The Alberta High School of Fine Arts Concert Band brought home the Superior Award, as well as the Adjudicators Choice Award, at provincial festival.
Jeff Graham 7840 BWC
Alberta High School of Fine Arts music teacher Jeff Graham is proud that his band brought home the Superior Award, as well as the Adjudicators Choice Award, from provincials. (Brent Calver/Western Wheel File Photo)

Okotoks band students have raked in a serious provincial accolade for their school.

Having made the trip for the Alberta Band Association Provincial Music Festival last month, the Alberta High School of Fine Arts (AHSFA) Concert Band brought home the Superior Award for their outstanding performance, clinic workshop and sight-reading challenge.

“Essentially it is a two-hour performance exam — five out of five adjudicators gave them top marks in every category,” said AHSFA band teacher and conductor Jeff Graham.

"(The festival) really is the ultimate challenge.”

He credits the hard work of his students for the win, saying they did all the heavy lifting.

“I make no sound on stage, all my power comes from them,” Graham said. “They were undeniable.

“When we started preparing, I told the kids, ‘Let’s be undeniable, let’s do it’ and so the kids went for it and they practised and worked really, really hard.”

Not only did they take the Superior Award, but the band found out later it was also given the Adjudicators Choice Award.

“In the old days, that would have meant you won the provincials, but they don't really do number one or number two and number three anymore,” Graham said. “But of 94 bands, four bands got an Adjudicators Choice Award, so it was quite an honour.

“The adjudicators were really moved by the performance; it was very humbling. Not just that, it was a good performance, but they were thankful, they enjoyed it."

The songs performed were band class staple The Voyageurs, as well as American Elegy, which was written about the Columbine Shootings.

In an email to parents following the trip, Graham said he felt, “lucky mostly and a little speechless…and humbled and grateful and very exhausted.”

Tuba player Luke Lee felt it was the low brass that helped define his band’s sound.

"I think that's what partially contributed to our success,” Lee said. “As well as the entire team’s hard work and practise.”

While high school band proceeded in one form or another through the past two years, that wasn’t the case for junior high, meaning incoming Grade 10 students had not been in band for the two years prior.

“The kids were coming in to me in Grade 10 not knowing or remembering much,” Graham said. “They hadn’t played in a year and a half, so really it was starting from scratch again.

“It took me a whole year to get them to that undeniable spot — I don’t know how but they did.

“I’m humbled and I’m proud.”

The accolade also secures the band an automatic invitation to nationals at MusicFest Canada.

Brent Calver

About the Author: Brent Calver

Award-winning photojournalist for the Okotoks Western Wheel and
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