Some people are surprised to hear that SMUS students begin learning to play stringed instruments in Grade 4. The real surprise, to me anyway, is that more schools don’t place the importance on musical education that it deserves.
While music is being replaced in favour of “more academic” concentrations across both independent and public school systems, SMUS continues to lead the way by exposing students to a wide range of musical options. In fact, we believe that music will aid in those “more academic” concentrations, giving kids access to the math, physics, psychology and creativity of music.
The Cross-Campus Strings Concert is a chance for students to perform (sometimes for the very first time) on a professional stage. The whole experience – from setting up, to rehearsal, to hanging out in the green rooms and interacting with other kids across campuses – is an education in itself; the mix of nerves and adrenaline is a tool that builds confidence.
Congratulations to Mrs. Smith, Ms. Williams and Ms. Fisher on a wonderful performance. Thanks to Jane Elder-Davis, accompanist; and Jacob Walker, poster and program image.
“I thought that the Cross-Campus strings concert was amazing. Being my first time attending and playing, I didn’t really know what it was going to be like. For me, it was great! We started practicing in September with bow strokes, and look where we are now! My favourite song to play was “Pogo Stick”, because it was fast and happy. I had a great time and I am excited for next year already!”
“This was my second strings concert except this time it was a much larger audience. Two things that I felt like I did well at were doing the songs and not showing my fear because of the huge audience. The two things that were a bit complicated were the two very fast songs “Start Your Engines” and “Pogo Stick”. Playing with the other students made me feel more confident and it also made the music sound much better. I think that it was not just me who did well but everyone else too.”
“The strings performance was really fun. I liked playing “All About That Bass” because we didn’t get to rehearse that much with the drums and they really brought everything together. I also like “Appalachian Hymn” because we had been practicing for a very long time and I looked forward to performing it. It was fun to watch the Grade 12s perform their piece. At that point you knew the performance was almost over, so you tried even harder to enjoy the moment.”
“People streamed in from everywhere into the Farquhar Auditorium at UVic. The spotlights were as bright as can be. Excitement filled the air. People from all ages came. There were teachers, students, young children and happy, joyful families. When everyone was seated the lights died down. A silence had awoken. Then, the Grade 4s came on stage with their different instruments – boys and girls went on stage carrying violins, violas, cellos and two more Grade 4s came out with a double bass gripped in their hands. When the Grade 4s were seated, Mr. Snowden came out and made a short welcome speech. When Mr. Snowden finished his speech Mrs. Smith (strings teacher) came out and talked about what the Grade 4s would be performing, and then BAM! the music started.
The Grade 4s led the audience through an adventure. Before we knew it they finished their performance. It was then time to hear the Grade 5 and 6 classes and they did extremely well. It was as if you could hear the bowing of the strings in each instrument and every single note could be heard. I believe that everyone thinks that it was well organized and very precise. Next the Grade 6s did their own song and called “Gauntlet”.
Next the big kids walked on and they were the Grade 7 and 8 strings performers and their performance was really, really, really well-performed. They played with such enthusiasm that it seemed they could play it in their sleep!
After that the professionals came on – the senior kids from grades 9, 10, 11 and 12. The moment they started playing almost everybody seemed awestruck. They performed a song with such emotion, a song that no one will ever forget – “The Phantom of the Opera”. The beginning of the song had nearly everybody jumping out of their seats.
Before everyone knew it, the performance was over. The students walked off stage and packed up their instruments and set off with their parents. And I just think, “Wow. How could they pull that off?” And well, I guess I know the answer. Everyone was determined to play well and the strings teachers taught them very, very well. It just takes a lot of hard work and practice!
“I’ve been playing the violin since Grade 4. I sing soprano, so I chose the violin because I thought it would be really nice to play an instrument that’s like that. I found the Strings Concert went pretty well. It was really cool to see how the Grade 4s did their pieces, and how it just grew in skill as the ages and grades went up. We played three songs, “Appalachian Hymn” and “All About That Bass” with the Grade 5s, and then the Grade 6s played “Gauntlet”. I really like playing “Gauntlet” because it’s a really mysterious piece. I like hearing everything come together after we’ve been practicing because we all come together to create this huge symphony of sound. Since the stage and the room was so large, it just projects all our sound out so the audience could hear it all. Thanks to Mrs. Smith; we couldn’t have done it without her excellent work because she really helps us out and we learn a lot from her.”
“I enjoy playing strings because I like music and I like listening to music – it makes me happy. I think the concert went quite well. We had been practicing for quite a while so I didn’t have any worries. We played three songs: “Air”, “Dance” and “Fantasia Espanola”. I like “Fantasia Espanola” the most because it’s quite diverse. It has some parts that are quite eerie, you don’t know what’s going to happen, and other parts are quite happy and quick. My mom said it was a really good concert! It was my first time playing at UVic and it was quite fun playing in such a large place; it was a really good, new experience for me!”
“I like playing the viola because it’s a fun way to play music. The instrument isn’t too big and not too heavy, so it’s pretty good to carry it around. It’s not too hard to learn and it’s fun playing in an orchestra with my friends. The concert was pretty good, but I know we made some mistakes. Compared to playing in a small music room like this, your music seems really quiet; in a small room, the sound bounces off the walls, but in a large auditorium the sound travels straight out and it seems so much quieter than you’re used to. I found it harder to hear some of the other sections when we played and I think that’s why there were a few mistakes. I enjoyed playing “Dance” the most because it’s a faster, more upbeat song, and that’s the type of music I like. I want to stick with strings in Senior School because I enjoy playing strings and a lot of my friends are joining, too.”
“The concert was definitely cool to see how they start in Grade 4 and how it slowly progresses to the big finish. I started playing the violin in Grade 2, before I came to SMUS. I kept with it because I thought it was a very expressive instrument. I feel like it’s an extension of yourself. It’s really kind of intimate. I’ve really enjoyed my time in the strings program because it’s often hard to get chances to really play as a big ensemble and that’s really fun for me. Being able to play group repertoire is really fun. It’s cool to make harmonies, and Ms. Williams is great because she chooses a variety of pieces – we have classical pieces, and soundtracks, and new weird stuff and pop songs. There’s a big mix of music that we’re exposed to and have the opportunity to play. This was my last Cross Campus Strings Concert and one of my last concerts at SMUS. I’m not feeling it yet, but I know I’ll look back one day soon and be like ‘It’s sad, you’re never going to have another strings concert at SMUS.’ I remember my first concert with SMUS; I was so nervous to sit in the front and my bow has to be the same as everyone else’s – now they’re just fun.”– by Amita, Grade 12