Carihi band on the run

The Carihi senior concert band practises at the school. The band features more than 40 students this year.

The halls are alive with the sound of music at Carihi.

Since Carihi teacher Phil Cassidy started teaching band at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, the school’s program has grown significantly. When he started, the senior concert band (grades 10 to 12) had approximately 25 students, the Grade 9 concert band had 23 and the senior jazz band was fairly steady with 15. This year, Cassidy is thrilled to have over 40 students in the senior concert band, 30 in the Grade 9 concert band, and 20 in the senior jazz band.

“Naturally, I want to take all kinds of credit for that, but I can’t,” says Cassidy. “There’s such a great program at Phoenix that’s feeding this program. There’s a sense of progression in place from Grade 6 on through Grade 12, which has helped a lot with that growth.”

Cassidy works closely with Kolya Kowalchuk, the band teacher at École Phoenix Middle School in order to prepare the students for their band experience at Carihi.

New to Carihi this year is the junior jazz band, which started at the request of some avid Grade 9 students who were in the sports band in middle school. It’s a more casual band that meets weekly to practise fun jazz standards, similar to what the senior jazz band plays.

For the concert bands, Cassidy says, “I like to pick music that’s dramatic; music that’s got a lot of colour to it, some added tension, real depth and lots of energy.” He likes to select music that tells a story or is a collection of medleys that reflect different regions or the work of a particular composer.

Exciting times are ahead for Carihi’s senior concert and jazz bands, with a trip to Seattle at the end of April. They will be doing three performances at Seattle elementary schools and attending a clinic at a university. Students will also get an opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture of the city.

This trip requires a lot of fundraising. The students have already done one grocery bagging day and have more planned. They will be selling chocolates at the end of this month and are planning a bottle drive.

Teaching band at Carihi isn’t a new experience for Cassidy. Even before taking over as the band teacher when Jim Vining retired, he was very much involved in music at the school.  Cassidy has also been instrumental as the music director of Carihi’s musical theatre program since 2013.