Holy Cross Collegiate bands put on an amazing show at the Alberta Band Association (ABA) Provincial Festival of Bands in Red Deer last week. The Grade 7, Grade 8/9, and high school band all competed and earned the "Excellence +" grade, which is only a half step away from the highest score of "Superior."

While it's not quite a direct comparison, the Provincial Festival of Bands could be thought of in a similar way to a provincial tournament in sports, as it's the highest level of performance these bands take part in, with the very best scores heading to the national stage.

Music teacher Sarah Haughey was extremely proud of her bands for their performances, which is even more impressive when you consider their size compared to other bands across the province.

"The band that went on stage before my grade sevens had approximately 60-70 students in it, and then our little band of twelve walked on stage, you can imagine that in itself is quite intimidating. They got complimented for playing because there's nowhere to hide in a group of twelve, there's no room for students just kind of faking the fingerings. Everybody has to take ownership of their part and I was really proud because all of the ensembles did that and they all worked very hard," Haughey said.


The hard work it takes to reach an Excellence+ score was exemplified by grade 7 tenor saxophonist Matilda Maribao, who moved to Canada in December and got straight to work to make sure she was able to perform at a high level.

"I like to practice until around 7:00 p.m. when I get from school, so that's around 4 hours. It's a lot of work, but I really enjoy playing it. It was such an amazing experience learning to play it," Maribao said.

While the performance was undoubtedly a big highlight of the trip, Maribao said the journey itself was just as great.

"The ride there was like 2 hours and I could listen to music with my friend the whole way. We compiled the playlist for each other and then it was really nice listening to different music, different kinds of songs with them and just looking at all the sites on the way there."

For Grade 12 baritone saxophone player Chloe Shworak this is the last high school band trip she'll take, and like Maribao she said simply getting to Red Deer is a huge part of the overall band experience.

"It's my last year traveling so I really wanted to take the bus and get the full experience out of it, and it was really great cause I sat with a group of the grade 11s and we did karaoke on the way back, that was really fun," Shworak said.

On the performance itself, Shworak said the advice received from the professional adjudicators is an incredible experience to learn how she can grow as a musician and practice things she may not have even considered.

"It gives you areas where you can focus to become a better musician in general, even as a team, we can get better through focusing on these little areas because even spending like 5-10 minutes on these little things like balance between our higher instruments versus lower instruments... Even a small amount can have a big difference, definitely gives you a lot to think about."

While Shworak won't be with HCC next year, the future is looking bright for the music program with many young dedicated musicians like Maribao already looking forward to next year's ABA festival.

Send your news tips, story ideas, pictures, and videos to news@strathmorenow.com