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GNS Green and Blue Band Strike a Superior Note at Vancouver Island Band Festival

GNS senior band

The GNS Senior School concert bands left a lasting impression at the Vancouver Island Concert Band Festival in Port Alberni, closing out the festival with two prestigious superior ratings.

Band Teacher Mr. Thompson, who has managed the program for 14 years, reflected on the evolution of the band. “What is now the staff room used to be the band room.” Improved acoustics and ambience where they are now in the Henderson building have contributed to the elevated performances by the students. 

“From a programming perspective, we keep the students pretty busy. We are a performance-based program and we are an IB school so we explore music as an arts discipline and what it means to be a musician,” he said. “At its core, a lot of kids sign up for a band because they like the ensemble nature of it, being in a class with their friends and on a team, similar to an athletics approach.” 

Although less focused on competition, playing an instrument in the band allows students who may not be as inclined towards athletics to become a part of something and to collaborate on shared objectives within a cohesive unit.

This year marked a significant milestone as the band expanded to accommodate their growing enrolment, splitting into two ensembles: the Green Band composed of Grades 9 and 10, and the Blue Band composed of Grades 11 and 12. 

“We’ve made a tradition of going to the Vancouver Island Concert Band Festival in Port Alberni, maintaining pretty consistent results,” Thompson added. “The last couple of years that we’ve gone with large bands of 80 plus students, the adjudicators that we’ve worked with said that we have enough kids for two bands.” 

Feeling enrolment was consistently around the 80-mark for the past few years, Mr. Thompson felt comfortable going ahead with the division this year. He saw that the separate ensembles allowed each group to perform at their respective levels, ensuring both challenge and growth. 

For Grade 12 students like Olivia Doell and Aleem Carino, the band provided a unique avenue for personal growth and expression. Despite their varied interests, ranging from athletics to academics, they found common ground in music. 

Olivia, the Senior School Athletics Prefect, said that being a part of the band was a catalyst for broadening her perspective and developing meaningful connections where she otherwise wouldn’t have. 

“I’ve been in band since Grade 6. Band is definitely something outside of my comfort zone and a huge reason I stuck with it is because of Mr. Thompson. He’s one of my favourite teachers and it was a good way to cap off our final year with a superior rating. It’s satisfying to see how much we’ve progressed since Grade 6,” said Olivia. 

Aleem, an athletics-focused student as well, found music to be a form of creative expression, instilling in him a sense of independence and self-discovery.

“A lot of the time there is so much guidance in sports and things, but in music the learning is more self-reliant in that I have to figure out how I learn best and that has helped with my independence for learning,” he said, adding that band has inspired him to pick up his guitar and continue with his creative musical expression following graduation. 

The superior rating is a fitting finale for the graduating seniors, a testament to their years of hard work and dedication. Their younger counterparts are well positioned to carry the legacy of musical excellence forward.