Members of Lindsay Thurber’s Symphonic Band and Advanced Contemporary Ensemble (ACE Choir) got to experience an invitation-only national festival recently in Niagara Falls, and took home a couple of awards, putting the icing on the cake for a great experience.

MusicFest Canada The Nationals is an invitation-only festival with more than 8,000 participants from across the country. After five days at the Festival, the Symphonic Band brought home gold, while ACE returned with silver.

Jennifer Mann, Band Teacher at Lindsay Thurber, and Andrew Snyder, Music Teacher at Lindsay Thurber, said the experience was one to remember.

“Coming out of a period of no travel, coming out of a period of no live performances - to be able to go places and sing and learn - we don't take it for granted,” said Andrew, adding the group not only experienced MusicFest, but did some sightseeing in the area as well. “We were in the location of the War of 1812. It is a very historical area of Canada, and to be able to expose our students to that was really special.”

As for the festival, the students not only performed, but they were able to take in performances from other bands and choirs from across the country.

“We reserved time for our students to hear other groups,” said Jennifer. “We created a listening guide for our students, and once they had the chance to listen to other groups, we asked them questions and to reflect on what they heard. The depth of thought in students’ responses was amazing.”

Photo of choir. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Thurber. 

Both the band and choir also had a workshop with one of the adjudicators. “It’s great for Jen and myself too because it’s professional development for us. We get to hear from the adjudicators and get feedback,” said Andrew. “It’s really helpful and as we prepare for the next year - we can take what we’ve heard and apply it.”

In addition, Jennifer received the Keith Mann Outstanding Band Director's Award at the Festival. The award is extra special as Keith was Jennifer’s father in law.

This award was named in honour of Keith who was a beloved music educator, and MusicFest Canada’s former secretary and treasurer, as well as Chair of the Orchestra and Concert Band Division. Keith was a tireless music advocate who inspired many of his students to consider careers in the music industry. In Keith’s honour, this award recognizes a most outstanding Band Director.

“Keith was instrumental in putting together MusicFest,” said Jennifer. “It’s really special to be able to honour his legacy and to continue doing what he did.”

In reflection of the experience, Andrew said it’s one to remember. “We are creating a memory for these students. You are cementing a high school moment that is going to last for years to come..”

For Jennifer, she said the trip was extra special following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My Grade 12s were on their way back from their Grade 9 band trip when the shutdown happened,” she said. “It was really special to take this trip with that group because we can celebrate coming out of the upheaval we’ve shared over the past four years.”