Bert Church band sets off on trip of a lifetime
On March 29, the Bert Church High School concert band, jazz band and choir will fly to China for nine days for a cultural experience unlike any other.
The students will perform at a number of schools in Beijing as well as at a portion of the Great Wall known as the Juyong Pass.
They will also take an overnight train to Xi’an, a smaller city in mainland China.
Band teacher Diego Bechthold made a similar trip while he was in university and he came back with a great appreciation for what we have in Canada, as well as “for the culture and lifestyle that they have in China (and) an appreciation of the history (of China), which is vastly different from ours,” he said.
“There’s miles and miles of tin shacks, and stone, what looks like rubble to your eyes … but there’s thousands of families, and schools there and they’re perfectly content with what they have.”
Sydney Pryor, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student, will be making her first trip to China with the band. For two years she and her peers have been fundraising by selling chocolates, poinsettias, cookie dough and running bottle drives.
“I think it’s going to be an amazing cultural experience,” she said.
“We get to learn so much about everything there and how music works there as well as everything surrounding food and language.”
Pryor, who plays alto saxophone with the jazz band and tenor saxophone with the concert band, says there’s still some work to be done in the remaining few weeks.
“We’re (preparing) songs with the different bands,” she said. “We’re going to be playing three songs for jazz band, three for concert band and the choir is going to be singing four songs.”
In total, 39 students in grades 10 to 12 and 11 chaperones will make the trip, which is partially subsidized by the Chinese government.
Pryor’s mother Melinda is the chairperson for the volunteer parent teacher committee at Bert Church and she said it’s been amazing to see how hard the students have worked to make this trip a reality.
“They’ve been really actively participating in the community, giving back as well as doing fundraising, raising awareness,” said Melinda.
“This came about as a way for us to try to encourage students to stay in the music program for the opportunities that they would get.
“We decided as a group … that our Bert Church High School music program is second to none but it’s shrinking and we wanted to find out if offering the students a really once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (would help grow the program).”
Bechthold says that trips like this are just a small part of the total benefit of playing in the band.
“There’s lots of studies that show how much better (playing in the band) makes them as students, it develops a sense of commitment and perseverance,” he said.
“It sometimes draws out talent in people that they never realized they had.
“Being part of a music ensemble you’ll have the opportunity to be a performer and all the opportunities that brings up such as performing in concerts for the community, and going on tour such as to China or just to Edmonton, Vancouver, Seattle … it’s an adrenaline rush to be able to put on a great musical performance for any kind of audience, to know that you were as successful as you could possibly be.”