SMUS Student Tours with National Band

by Victor Ma, Grade 11 student

About six months ago, I was simply checking my email in the library when I noticed a new email from an unfamiliar sender. Well, I opened the email, and this is what it said:

“Dear NYB Musician,
Congratulations on being selected as a member of the 2010 National Youth Band of Canada!”

On May 8th, I arrived at Trinity Western University, which was the campus that generously offered to host the National Youth Band of 2010. As soon as I entered the residence hall, I was warmly greeting by the smiling faces of fellow musicians. I immediately felt welcomed into the new family that I would be spending my time with for the next week. After several introductions, we headed over to the rehearsal hall, for the first rehearsal of “NYB 2010.”

The first piece we ever played together as an ensemble was Julius Fucik’s “Florentiner March.” I still remember sitting on my timpani stool, counting my bars of rest, and getting goose bumps from the “magic of the music.” The feeling of that magic was indescribable. I couldn’t help but have a giant grin on my face while playing my part. Even though we were only sight reading, we were able to beautifully play through the piece smoothly, transitioning to near perfection between the march and trio sections.

After about 30 hours worth of rehearsal time over a period of four days, the official National Youth Band tour of British Columbia began. The full house concert at the Bell Centre in Surrey was a definite highlight of the tour. It seemed that at almost every one of the concerts, there was at least one musician, conductor, or ensemble director that I had worked with in the past in the audience. Seeing those who helped develop my musicality at my music performances reminded me of the musical path I had traveled on since starting percussion in Grade 6.

The conductor, Dr. Wayne Jeffrey, was extraordinary. His musicality really allowed each musician to play to his or her full potential in the group. He would take a large portion of the rehearsal period and dedicate it to tuning. Even though it didn’t seem important initially, the tuning “periods” really made a significant difference in the quality our concerts. During one of our rehearsals, I was smashing my hammers on the tubular bells as the music indicated for me to play fortissimo. Dr. Jeffrey stopped the band, pointed at me, looked at me straight in the eyes with a sinister smile on his face, and said, “for the concert, give me even more!”

Our repertoire was quite diverse. We played exhilarating pieces ranging from Whitacre’s “Equus” (which had insane time and key signature changes), to de Meij’s award-winning “Lord of the Rings” symphony. One of the most amazing part of my experience was when several composers of the pieces we played came and worked with us. Having the composers themselves conduct their own pieces allowed us fully understand the blots of ink on the page.

If I were to describe the whole ensemble in one word, I would use the word “amazing.” There really is no other word to describe the amazing connection that grew between each of us, both on and off stage. What was most important was that each and everyone one of us were having the time of our lives during that week. Throughout our experiences together, there are so many great memories that will remain with me forever.

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