This week, Golden West Broadcasting and 104.5 More Country presented a scholarship donation of $3,200 each to Strathmore High School and Crowther Memorial Junior High for their music programs.

Bryan Allsop is the music teacher at both Crowther Memorial Junior High (CMJHS) and Strathmore High School (SHS), and he says the donations allows the schools to explore new programs and offer students more ways to express themselves.

"It gives us an opportunity to explore new programs. We started this past year at the high school the rock band program. We went out and bought 5 guitars, 5 basses, and 2 electric drum kits, there's a grand right there. It was fantastic, it gave them (the students) a chance to experience and perform music."

Adding different music programs can help students make new friends, and maybe discover a new passion as well.

"It helped them expand their skills, it helped them have somewhere where they could pursue another passion in a class. And it just helps build a community there, where hopefully some of those kids can keep on making more music."

Allsop believes the arts is something every student should have the opportunity to access, as it gives students a chance to grow as people and enjoy themselves.

"A lot of times arts might be the reason some kids come to school, or arts are where these kids can really find who they are."

"It's just a place of belonging for a lot of kids. It builds self confidence, it builds self worth a lot of times, and it builds a sense of belonging as well."

Allsop emphasized the importance of belonging and community that art programs can provide. This year was especially great since the class got to travel and perform in-person again. The previous years had virtual concerts, as covid prevented the band from doing any in-person shows

"It makes a big difference, being able to perform for people as opposed to performing for a camera. I know the kids had a blast."

"Even just the time we went up to Red Deer, spending time on the bus together, hanging out, going to Peter's Drive-In after, things like that.  A lot of times for some kids those are the memories they have from the band program after they graduate, so it's really important to be able to do that."

Looking ahead, Allsop is focused on building the music programs back up to their pre-covid glory days. A big part of this is international travel.

"The focus right now is building the program back up to size and keep expanding, getting more and more kids. Next year, we're planning on having a big international trip, which will be great for the high school kids to get to go and have that experience.

The last time the program went to New York, they saw a Broadway show, went to a jazz club that was over 100 years old, and saw the New York Philharmonic.