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Band returns to Fernie public schools

Grade seven band students at Fernie Secondary School rehearse. - N. Liebermann
Grade seven band students at Fernie Secondary School rehearse.
— image credit: N. Liebermann

It’s been a long time since the sounds of musical instruments were heard in the halls of Fernie Secondary (FSS) and Isabella Dicken Elementary (IDES) schools. After a significant absence, band is back in Fernie’s public school system.

“It’s been four or five years since we’ve had music in the school and it’s been a challenge to try to get it back,” explained Bill Johnson, FSS Principal. “As band fell apart, it was harder and harder to build it back up again.”

With start up money from School District 5, and a new music teacher splitting his teaching time between FSS and IDES, the goal is to build the band program back up for present and future Fernie students.

“This year we have band in grade seven and we also have a handful of kids in grades eight and nine who wanted to take band and just didn’t have the opportunity when they were in grade seven,” said Johnson. “Our expectation is that next year we’ll have band for grades seven, eight, and nine. Slowly over time, we’ll end up having what we should have in the school, which is a full concert band.”

Johnson went on to say, “It’s been something that we’ve really missed.

“It’s great for a school to be able to offer the math and science courses, but even for those kids focused on academics, the creative element that goes with a good arts and music education is important, and it adds a certain dynamic to a school culture.”

With music teacher David Pasivirta leading the program, grade six students at IDES and grade seven students at FSS are learning fundamental music skills and the importance of working together.

“I love the ensemble, I love the group effort of band, because it’s something you can’t do by yourself,” remarked Pasivirta. “Someone might have a great sound as an individual, but it’s a completely different thing when you get together as a group.”

Pasivirta believes there’s more to band than learning how to play an instrument. “Public school music isn’t just about music. I think a class like this can proactively create community and create trust among the students.

“It’s not just that they’re going to learn a quarter note, but they’re going to learn how to take a risk, how to encourage each other, how to create a safe space, and they’re going to learn when is the right time to have fun and to take things seriously.”

The new teacher is also in the process of forming a choir at FSS, and will be taking on a digital recording class for secondary students next semester.

Pasivirta commented, “I try to balance high standards with enjoyment, because music should be joyful. Young students, and students who don’t come from a long tradition of an excellent music program, need to be taught how that works, but they should still be having fun.”

The FSS and IDES bands will show off their new skills at a concert in Traynor Hall on January 15.

 

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