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George McDougall band students go on tour to spread love of music

After years of COVID-19 preventing them to go on tour, the band students from George McDougall High School hit the road north to showcase their talents and spread the love of music. 

After years of COVID-19 preventing them from going on tour, the band students from George McDougall High School recently hit the road north to showcase their talents and spread the love of music. 

From May 11 to 13, the school’s concert and jazz band had the opportunity to present their music to local schools and on the West Edmonton Mall centre stage for spectators and passersby to enjoy.

The students also had the opportunity to attend a clinic, where they learned from renowned band master Rob Speers.

George McDougall’s band teacher, Jordan Harris, said the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to touring opportunities the last few years. With such opportunities allowed again, he said last week’s trip to Alberta's capital was a great chance for the school’s band students to come together as a group.

“Pre-COVID is the last time that we had really done anything,” he said. “And so after [a few] years, we were finally able to do something and we're able to come together as a team.”

George Mac’s senior band consists of student musicians in grades 10 to 12. Being in separate grades often prevents the classes from coming together. Harris noted the tour is something that offers a unique experience to blend musicians from different grades. 

“That's what tours offer us, is that opportunity to come together and combine our powers,” he said. “It's really looking at all of the other features that can bring our team closer and more close knit.”

According to Harris, the Edmonton trip provided the students with an opportunity to spread the love of music and inspire younger generations. Harris mentioned some of the students the George McDougall musicians performed for may never have the opportunity to have a concert at their school, and that the band was able to provide them with a special experience.

Attending a clinic with Speers was also a major highlight of their trip. Speers currently sits as the chair of the Alberta International Band Festival and has been teaching at Harry Ainlay High School in Edmonton for 27 years. According to the Canadian Rocky Mountain Festival, he was born and raised in Edmonton and over the years has conducted a variety of different choirs and bands.

Harris said it was vindicating to hear from Speers that the George Mac band students were “on the right track” as a group. 

The long-time George McDougall teacher said he wants his students to know just how talented they are. He said the clinic highlighted a few students who often fly under the radar.

“They are a really skilled bunch of individuals, and they need to sometimes realize how talented they actually are,” Harris said. “I think a lot of students kind of go with the flow and they're content just being amongst the crowd. But there are some amazing musicians and that was indicated during the clinic.”

The tour was also helpful for the students as they prepare for their upcoming spring concert on June 8. Harris said that they are still “fine-tuning” some of the pieces they performed on tour while also adding in some additional pieces.

Harris said it is inspiring to see his students’ growth throughout the year culminate in the annual spring concert. He mentioned that not everyone has the opportunity to see them develop over time.

“They don't get to witness the point A to point B [growth] like I do,” he said. “It's a completely awesome and rewarding experience. Super proud of these kids all the time.”

The theme for the June 8 concert is “Fun,” as the group looks to play the songs they love and enjoy. Doors to the performance open at 5:30 p.m. at George McDougall's gymnasium, with the concert’s first notes being struck at 6:30 p.m.

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