Long-running Okanagan Band Festival returns for another year

Penticton to host high school bands from around B.C. and Alberta

By Brennan Phillips

Special to the Western News

The Penticton Trade and Convention Centre will host the Okanagan Concert Band Festival on March 6 and 7.

This year the festival will feature 28 concert bands from across the province, as well as some from Alberta, with sizes ranging from 20 students to over 100.

“For a lot of the kids in Penticton they start coming at Grade 7 and Grade 8, when they’re in middle school, and then they continue for Grade 9, 10, 11, and 12. The more they play in an environment where there are adjudicators and other band kids listening that know what to listen for, it cranks the heat up and they get a good performance out of it,” said organizer and Princess Margaret Secondary School music teacher Don Grant.

The bands will each have their own half hour slot to perform three songs, after which they will receive written and recorded comments, and a half hour adjudication clinic. As a curricular event, the festival runs during the week and despite the difficulty some of the students face with missing some of the academic courses, the festival attracts a full crowd every year. The festival is non-competitive and there are no scores given to the performances, only feedback to help the students improve.

“The adjudicators that we have are seasoned band teachers that know what to listen for and what to give the bands and band directors for ideas on how to sound better,” said Grant.

A highlight for Grant is the sixth annual mass band. The mass band is an open performance led by the combined Penticton Secondary School and Princess Margaret bands. The senior band, composed of students in grades nine to 12, leads the Tuesday, March 6 performance. The junior band, with students from grades six to eight, performs on Wednesday, March 7. The student-musicians spend several weeks practicing the songs on their own, and then have two joint practices in the couple weeks leading up to the festival. Grant said the Mass Band offers an opportunity for the smaller bands to perform as part of a larger whole with a stronger central group to help drive the songs and keep them on track.

The performances are open to the public and the festival runs from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on March 6 and from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. on March 7.

Two special performances by the University of Calgary Wind Ensemble take place on March 6 at 6:30 and 8 p.m. Grant said for some of the young students, it’s their first opportunity to hear a quality performance from a high-level band. Tickets for the University of Calgary performances are available for $6 each.

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