Music teacher Justin Ratzburg leads Trafalgar Middle School band students during a performance on Dec. 16. Trafalgar has made band classes free and mandatory for all Grade 6 students. Photo: Tyler Harper

Music teacher Justin Ratzburg leads Trafalgar Middle School band students during a performance on Dec. 16. Trafalgar has made band classes free and mandatory for all Grade 6 students. Photo: Tyler Harper

Nelson school bets on unique music program

Band is now a free and mandatory Grade 6 students at Trafalgar Middle School

Justin Ratzburg couldn’t help but be a little concerned.

Last year, Trafalgar Middle School’s band featured around 65 kids. This year nearly 200 students would be performing in two December concerts prior to the holiday break.

Ratzburg, who moved to Nelson this year from Vancouver to teach music at Trafalgar and L.V. Rogers, wasn’t sure how it would sound when so many new students made their public debuts. But that anxiety ended when the concert began.

“I was really happy with their performance. They were all practising really hard and they all played in time together, and that was really a miracle,” said Ratzburg.

“I guess I had my doubts, I had my worries. There was a chance it would completely fall apart, but they’re all good musicians. It’s a natural ability and they’ve followed through and did a great performance. I couldn’t be happier, I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Trafalgar’s band isn’t just special because it can play “Ode To Joy.” The school has made its music program mandatory and, crucially, free for all Grade 6 students as of last September.

Previously, music was optional for Trafalgar’s Grade 6 to 8 students. Parents were asked to pay $100 to cover the cost of an instrument rental, although that fee was covered by School District 8 if it was a barrier to entry.

Now Grade 6 students participate in band and, if they choose, carry on with it in Grade 7 and 8 as an elective.

Ratzburg said it’s rare for a B.C. school to make music a core subject, especially on the scale of Trafalgar’s program.

“It’s become pretty common for it to be an after or before school activity,” said Ratzburg.

But principal Paul Luck is betting music education will lead to a happier, more academically successful school.

“It’s an amazing cultural shift,” said Luck. “The kids walking around with their band instruments, it brings a lot of joy to our hearts in our school and kids are very excited about it.”

The emphasis on music education is part of what Luck describes as a renewed focus on student mental health at Trafalgar and within the district.

In November, the Ministry of Education announced a $2-million investment in school-based mental health programming. School District 8, which received $30,500 from the ministry, has hired Javier Gonzalez as a co-ordinator of school mental health and addictions while also adding counselling and intervention services.

Superintendent Christine Perkins said she believes the benefits of music education aren’t limited to academic success.

“Music has a lot of positive benefits in addition to also helping ironically with numeracy results. It helps lift depression, it helps people relate to people and build empathy.”

For Trafalgar, that mental health focus has resulted in small changes such as the addition of a spin bike room for students who need what Luck describes as a calming activity, or larger scale initiatives like the expanded music program.

Luck said accommodations have even been made to include two students with hearing disabilities in the Grade 6 band.

“What I’ve seen is once you’ve joined a band, you’ve make friends for life,” said Luck. “I see that all over our community. So I think band is an important thing for us at this school because if you are trying to model for students how to get along with each other, how to work collaboratively, then band is the perfect venue for that.”

Ratzburg said typically only a fraction of students from a grade join band. Now he’s excited for the future of music in Nelson with more kids being exposed to a music program.

“It’s quite a vision, but I think it’s an excellent way to re-amp music culture in town,” he said. “Where other band and music programs are dwindling and falling apart, this one’s getting better. It’s great.”



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

It costs as little as $7 to charge an EV at home. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Electric Vehicles a rare sight (in the Kootenays), but change on the way

Electric pickups will increase the appeal of zero-emission vehicles in years to come according to Blair Qualey of the New Car Dealers Association

Linda Krawczyk and her dad Doug Finney enjoyed a ride around beautiful Fernie on Friday thanks to Melanie Wrigglesworth and the local chapter of Cycling Without Age. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Cycling Without Age goes for its first spin

Doug Finney (86) got to enjoy a ride around Fernie

The Cranbrook Community Forest is good to go for mountain biking. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Snow’s done, time to hit the trails

South Country trails are good to go

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
69 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 9,840 since the pandemic began

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

Most Read