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John Pritchard band stars at festival

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It was a long time coming for Lynda Thompson and John Pritchard School.

Thompson and her Grade 8 band were honoured at the Optimist Concert Band Festival in February. The band received a special plaque for its five-star performance at the festival, as well as the George Douglas Award for myriad reasons, including the building of an outstanding band program.

Thompson, who has taught at the school for 21 years, said she doesn’t play up the awards aspect of the festival in advance of the performance, but is excited to receive the honours.

"They didn’t know about the awards (beforehand)," she said. "We go to help our development, take us another step higher. We strive for more."

Thompson said she has three R’s as the basis of her program: rehearse, revise, and refine. She added band students are under a little more pressure to excel than other programs in the school.

"(Other teachers) don’t say ‘OK everybody, we’re going to go out in public and do math in front of everybody, three judges, maybe some of your parents, and a whole bunch of other schools’," she said.

Thompson said the Grade 9 band was also at the festival, and were impressed with what they saw out of their schoolmates.

Trumpet player Alasdair de Koning played with the ensemble last year in the Level One Festival, which is designed for Grade 7 programs, and said moving up to the Optimist Festival this year with more bands playing gave them a chance to rise to the occasion.

"Going to the Optimist Festival gave us the chance to strive for us to be better, to get better. That really helped us a lot," said de Koning, noting he plays other instruments and may follow his cousin’s footsteps to Brandon University for music. "We had more fun this year.

"I’ve gotten used to it all."

Tuba player Emily Auch said she felt her playing has come along in part due to putting in the time on her own.

"I think I’ve improved because I’m recognizing more of my mistakes," said Auch, who is already contemplating a career as a band teacher.

Thompson said all students have done a good job of learning to self-assess so they’re able to pull their own weight as part of the ensemble.

"They’re focused, they’re energized, and they are passionate about what they’re doing," she said. "They make a lot of music at home and they take responsibility for their own learning."

Thompson also credited the school’s band parents’ association for helping to fundraise for the program. Monies raised have helped to purchase equipment for the program, including microphones that hang from the ceiling to record rehearsals and a sound system that plays back the recording.

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