Alexander Williams on the bass and Eryn Basham on the cello audition as part of a student-led combo with Leah Spiers on the piano, Rion Fukado on the violin (not pictured) for Belmont Secondary’s upcoming winter concert. (Katherine Engqvist/News Gazette staff)

The evolution of Belmont’s music department

Winter Concert takes place this Thursday

Belmont Secondary School’s music department has come full circle.

Belmont’s music director Mandart Chan and Grade 12 students Ben Darwin, Eryn Basham and Yohanna Vangenne, reminisced about days past and the “evolution of the band” as Vangeene called it.

In the midst of preparing for the department’s Winter Concert, the journey they’ve been on for the last four years wasn’t lost on the senior students. This is the first time the department will be performing a concert inside the school’s gymnasium since moving into the new building.

“I’m really excited to have a gym concert … it’s come full circle,” Vangenne said. “We’re just breaking all the barriers … I don’t want to leave.”

While last year’s winter concert was a great experience, Basham noted there was limited seating and the audience had to get up and move to other areas in the school which meant performers were never able to hear all of the pieces in their entirety as they too were constantly on the move. “Everybody’s together and experiencing the whole thing at once,” she explained.

Darwin added the move to the gym will also be good for Grade 9 students as they start to grow within the program. “The best thing will be the nines, we have a legacy built.”

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As Chan explained, the move back to a gym concert was inspired by the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. Belmont hosted performances last school year and Chan said they received great feedback from the musicians about the quality of sound in Belmont’s state-of-the-art gymnasium.

“That’s where we got our motivation from,” he said. “We can [also] fit 1,000 people in the stands.”

And they just may need the space with all of the department’s ensembles performing pieces, including both drum lines, Grade 9 concert band, concert choir, junior and senior winds, jazz and vocal jazz, as well as R&B band and student-led combos. There will also be some middle and elementary school guests making an appearance for one of the pieces.

“The new building has given us the opportunity to break out of the old mould,” Chan said. “We’re trying on new things and experimenting with our operations as a department. We’re evolving.”

The new building has not only inspire staff but also students. “This is their home,” Chan explained. “They physically moved everything in.” And having that ownership right from day one of how the department was set up translated to students taking exceptional pride in the space and the success of the program. As more students join the department, Chan said the senior students have been setting an example that’s quickly picked up by the younger grades who are eager to take on ownership as well. “Day to day it still feels like a high school but there’s a lot more pride.”

It also helps that the physical education department has been hosting every event they can in the new gym, Chan said. “Every school that walks in, their jaws drop and they go ‘this is your gym?’ … There’s a lot of pride from everyone, very few people are taking it for granted.”

While a number of the Grade 12 students in the music department have been a part of a gym concert at the old school, Chan noted this will be entirely different, even in terms of logistics. “It’s a completely new concept because of setup … we won’t blow a fuse when we plug in a sound system.” Moving all of the equipment down the hall is also a nice change, as before the department would have to rent trucks to move everything between the old band room and the gym.

The Belmont Music Department’s Winter Concert takes place next Thursday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. Admission is by donation and the department will be collecting donations ahead of the school’s annual 10,000 Tonight Food Drive.


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