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Young maestros unite

Whistler Concert Band wraps up first year of musical discovery

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It’s 7:30 in the morning, and the grounds of Spring Creek school are empty, save for the faint sound of trumpets and trombones drifting from the confines of the building.

If you follow the music, you’ll soon come to a door marked “Ms. Hunter.” This is Alison Hunter’s classroom. She splits her time between teaching music at Spring Creek and helping to organize the annual musical at Whistler Secondary School.

“I was the librarian, too, but last June I said, ‘you know, I can’t do two full-time jobs anymore,” she recalls with a laugh.

Instead, she decided to take on a whole new project — a band program for local elementary school children.

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning this year, almost 30 students have trundled out of their beds and made their way to rehearsal. They may be bleary-eyed when they arrive, but after a few minutes of Hunter’s enthusiastic instruction, these kids are bright-eyed and ready to play.

Grasping French horns, trumpets, trombones, flutes, and clarinets, the young musicians perch at their music stands, tapping their feet to keep the beat, playing along with Hunter on the piano.

They haven’t been at it for long — the program was launched at the beginning of the school year — but they’re already running like a well-oiled machine, rehearsing each song once then playing it again so Hunter can record it.

Hunter started the program, simply entitled the Whistler Concert Band, to try and encourage kids to explore music a little further than they’re able to in a regular music class.

“It gives them an outlet, and I think that’s so important, and also to give our children all the opportunities and say, ‘here’s what there is, you can pick and choose,’” she explained.

A harpist, Hunter also played in an orchestra before heading off to university, and believes being involved in a band is a fundamental team-building experience.

“When you play in a band, you’re working together and you’re working in a co-operative way,” she said. “It’s not competitive — you’re supporting each other.”

At the elementary school level, Hunter believes it’s important to limit the amount of instrument selection to help ensure the kids get a strong basic understanding of one instrument.

“It’s harder for them to all play in tune and to play together and to master instruments if there’s a huge variety,” she explained. “This way, you may have noticed, they help each other and they’ve become a tight little group.”

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