Photo by Richard Amery
Karly Lewis, second from right, band instructor at Gilbert Paterson Middle School, poses with her Grade 8 band students Tanner Lapointe, Tori Norlin and Kelsi Shearer. The Kiwanis Music and Speech Arts Festival is ready to kick off at various city venues.
It is time, once again, for the annual Kiwanis Music and Speech Arts Festival, March 31-April 12. “It’s always new and exciting. I always love listening to new people,” said Kiwanis festival general manager Beth Cook.
As always, it is a great opportunity to check out talent of all ages participating in 80 different sessions from the popular organ category which returned last year to the always popular piano, plus there will be numerous bands and acting.
This year, there are approximately 1,100 entrants who will be adjudicated by 15 adjudicators, who will offer advice and suggestions for improvement and recommend them to move on to the provincial festival.
Returning this year are two best-of-show concerts — a musical theatre showcase on April 5 and the Stars of the Festival on April 12.
Events take place every day at eight different venues including the Yates Memorial Centre, Écolé Agnes Davidson, the Lethbridge Public Library Gallery, the Sterndale Bennett Theatre, Southminster United Church, St. Augustine’s Church and the St. Augustine’s Hall plus St. Patrick Fine Arts Elementary school (80 River Green Road West). Most events take place in the downtown core.
It is a lot of work for volunteers and staff to put on this annual event, now in its 84th year.
“The programs also have a week at a glance, so you can see what is happening every week,” Cook continued.
Gilbert Paterson Middle School band instructor Karly Lewis has been either participating in the Kiwanis Festival or has had her school bands taking part in it for 25 years.
“I think it is a wonderful opportunity for the kids to work with an adjudicator,” said Lewis, who has four bands participating in this year’s festival — the Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8 bands and the stage bands.
“But I don’t see participating in the festival as a measure of success,” she said. “Because it is one person’s perspective,” she explained.
“But it is important for the students to have a fresh perspective in the spectrum of their abilities and areas that require further exploration,” she said.
She noted her bands include 246 students who make up 33 per cent of the Gilbert Paterson student body.
She added it is important for her students to perform in front of an audience and adjudicators who offer suggestions for improvement. She noted the Kiwanis Music and Speech Arts Festival is the second big concert of the year for their bands as their annual Christmas show is the first main performance of the school year.
Lewis is heavily involved with the community as part of the Community Band Society, Lethbridge Community Gold Band, Bridge Brass Quintet and TEDx Lethbridge.
“I’m very passionate about music and learning,” she said of her involvement with the festival.
She chooses pieces that will be a challenge for the students to learn and perform.
This year the Grade 8 band is performing a couple of pieces by composer Brian Balmages, who she discovered while attending a conference in Chicago.
“If it’s exciting for them to listen to and learn, it will be exciting for them to play,” she continued.
“Students need a strong melody line to latch onto. If they don’t find it a challenge, I lose their interest pretty quickly,” she continued.
“My students respond pretty quickly. I’m pretty fortunate because I have pretty great kids,” she enthused.
She noted organizing so many students is the biggest challenge.
“It is a matter of co-ordination. Most people would assume class size would be an issue,” she said.
As a teacher she also loves hearing the adjudicators’ fresh perspective on her students’ performance.
“I enjoy watching the students learn from a new director. I like seeing their sense of accomplishment and pride when they do well. But it’s never about my accomplishments, because they’re the performers,” she continued.
They have been working to prepare for the festival for the past three months.
Lewis, who is Lethbridge born and raised, has about 24 years experience performing and participating in the festival. She began in Grade 2 when she took part in her first piano competition.
“I remember I was really nervous,” she said.
She has also performed on French horn as a child, and as an adult as part of the Lethbridge Gold Band plus Bridge Brass and the Lethbridge Concert Band.
She said it is essential the students enjoy performing in the festival.
“I like seeing my students trying their best. If my students aren’t smiling, then I need to make a shift,” she said.
Getting a massive band involved with the festival is a team effort.
“I need the help and support of the staff and my band parents,” she said, adding they aren’t allowed to transport band instruments with the students, so parents volunteer their time and large vehicles to transport them to the venue.
“Without their support, my program wouldn’t flourish,” she said.
The students look forward to the festival.
“I like to hear the other bands,” said Grade 8 band member Tori Norlin, a baritone saxophone player, adding she has enjoyed learning a new instrument.
“I like to get constructive criticism and improve,” added Grade 8 band alto saxophonist Kelsi Shearer.
“I like it when we finally get something we’re working on and it’s like a magic moment,” she enthused.
“I like hearing the different insights,” Norlin added.
Grade 8 band member and trumpet player Tanner Lapointe has also participated in the choir and handbell portions of the festival.
“But band is a lot more fun,” he said.
They love working with Lewis.
“She is always helping us improve,” said Norlin.
“She is always giving us pointers.”
“She smiles a lot. I look up to her,” Shearer added.
Festival programs are available for $10 at Long and McQuade and The Music Court, which are also a pass for the entire festival. Otherwise sessions cost $2 each to attend.