On March 16th, H.J. Cody School welcomed their future students into their halls for Music-a-thon – an opportunity for band students to raise money for their own musical development in band.
“It is a fundraiser and each student can acquire sponsorship for their time spent here,” H.J. Cody Band Director Kerry Heisler said. “It is just like a wake-a-thon or skate-a-thon – they focus on their instruments and play with senior players.”
The three hour workshop allows the young musicians to quickly learn some of the vital lessons that older players have already learned.
“They focus on songs that they know and some songs they don’t know to see how much they can grow in that short period of time,” Heisler said. “The parents come back at 6:30 p.m. and we will do a mini concert for them to show how much we did grow and what can happen in a short, really focused time.”
The workshop also allows community sponsors to support budding young musicians looking to improve
“Those people sponsoring students are promoting their ability to travel, to go to camp and to have some money to do what they need to do when it comes to more special things,” Heisler explained. “It goes to their own development and the sponsors are recognized by the Sylvan Lake School Music Society specifically for the children. The kids know they are earning their own funds.”
The workshop also plays a dual role in preparing young students for their transition into high school.
“Fox Run is the school that sends their students to me so that beginning development is so critical,” Heisler said. “For them to be able to come to H.J. Cody and know that this building is just another building and know where the bathrooms are, know where the theatre is, know where the band room is and know where some of the classrooms are – it makes them more confident. They realize they can be musicians at whatever age and they can continue to be in high school. That is a super important tool for our schools.”
The workshops also benefit the older students leading the tutorials.
“The older students get to demonstrate leadership, which they can add to a resume,” Heisler said. “It shows they can work with youth, which can lead to jobs in the future. It shows they are able to express their skills and that is a really important asset.”
Gaining confidence in their instruments allows these students to grow.
“In a three hour workshop with experienced players it can lead to the younger players really finding confidence in their skills,” Heisler said. “It is up to the individual, meaning what they put into it – they will get out of it.”
The workshop, indeed, is no walk in the park.
“They will be pushed today, which will make them feel a little tired but they will also feel the excellence and success of that,” Heisler said before the performance.
Keeping a love of music is important for Heisler.
“I am the high school director and I recognize that if we don’t have them at Grade 7 then we will be starting them at Grade 9,” she said, adding, “That doesn’t allow us to do the big pieces that we are able to do.
“We are able to do music with melodies, multiple accompaniments, lots of percussion, lots of depth and breadth in the material because the beginners have done the work to get the basics under control,” she said. “It is critically important that those young people have that great experience and they really look forward to coming over to the high school and hang out with the big kids. It is a really important piece of our development and recruitment process to get them here and feeling excellent.”
Band can lead to academic success and can even be profitable for these students.
“They can achieve Rutherford Scholarships and they can achieve their high school diploma graduation requirements using band,” Heisler explained. “We provide that opportunity for kids to do that doing something they love to do and usually they get a good mark because you are continually developing those skills that you got at a young age. Your success can therefore turn into money.”
She added band is, “One of those life-long learning things that they can take into the community.”