Last fall, when the Belmont secondary band program was getting up and running for the school year, Grade 11 musician Cameron Welch told teacher Mandart Chan he wanted to try something new.
As Welch tells the story, Chan remarked, “What? Do you want to play the bassoon or something?”
Throw this young man a challenge and he takes it on. Despite being a tenor saxophone player at school and an accomplished drum major with the Langford-based 263 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Beacon Hill, Welch parlayed his new opportunity into a spot with the B.C. Cadet Honour Band, which opens its four-city concert tour with a performance next Tuesday at the McPherson Playhouse.
The Colwood teen, a Petty Officer First Class in cadet terms, found out about his selection while travelling home from practice at the University of Victoria with the Don Wright Symphonic Winds, another high-level ensemble in which he plays his adopted instrument.
Getting involved with that group and learning the material has “been very whirlwind,” he says, but he feels it has prepped him for this upcoming challenge. “I feel like it’s going to be the same way in honour band: learn the music quickly and sight read really well.”
Welch is joined in the honour band by fellow 263 corps cadet, Chief Petty Officer First Class Taylor Cartwright, who is also the corps’ coxswain and an accomplished clarinetist, both at Belmont and in cadets.
She also took on a new challenge for her Grade12 year, adding the rare E-flat clarinet to her repertoire at school, where she also plays B-flat clarinet, plus alto and baritone sax.
“I don’t think I would be where I am without the instruction I got with cadets and the school band,” she says.
Under the cadet musical grading system – it’s similar to Conservatory of Music grading – she has achieved her level 4 standing for clarinet performance and level 5 in theory. Welch is at the same standing for bassoon.
Cartwright was taken aback when informed of her selection to the cadet honour band.
“I was definitely surprised. I haven’t done a lot with the cadet music program, so I wasn’t expecting this. I was pretty excited and shocked.”
While her coxswain duties keep her busy, not to mention school work in her grad year, her cadet time is frequently taken up with recreational activities such as sailing, orienteering, hiking and canoeing. “I try to be on every team,” she says.
The musicians from around the province will gather tomorrow (March 14) in Victoria to begin rehearsing material for the four concerts they will play. In addition to the Victoria performance (March 17, 7:30 p.m., tickets at rmts.bc.ca), the 45-member band will play concerts in Nanaimo on Sunday, Burnaby on Monday and Vernon on March 20.
The group will play material from Disney’s Frozen and The Hunger Games, as well as a selection of classical and military compositions and there will also be a pipes and drums performance.
Both West Shore cadets look forward to rekindling some old friendships with people they’ve been at camp with in past, as well as making new friends.
Unlike learning new songs and parts on the fly, that part won’t be a challenge at all for the outgoing pair.