District band to play in festival

STRATTON—Our Lady of the Way School in Stratton now has the sound of music echoing in its halls.
Thanks to the skills and the volunteer time of principal Brendan Hyatt, a 25-piece band has been struck up there.
Hyatt, in his second year as principal at OLW, taught music for five years in Toronto. When he discovered that St. Francis School in Fort Frances was not going to continue with its band program this year, he asked if OLW could use the instruments.
The answer was “yes” and students at OLW began practising in late October.
“I just could not see letting $30,000 worth of instruments sit idle,” said Hyatt.
He volunteered his time at lunch hours to teach the band members, comprised of students from Grades 6-8, what he knows. He compares his volunteering to that of other teachers when they offer to coach teams for free.
Hyatt also feels it is his duty to do this. “I am just doing what I am supposed to do—teach,” he reasoned.
Hyatt said he feels the arts play a key role in helping to develop well-rounded students.
He said some of them had some musical abilities, having taken piano lessons prior to the OLW band. But for the most part, they all started from scratch, learning to read music and play.
But Hyatt noted the band is progressing very well and has it slated to participate in the annual Festival of the Performing Arts on April 19.
“I think people will be surprised at how well they play!” he enthused.
The OLW band will play a ballad called “Tikal” and a more upbeat piece at the festival. Hyatt said there will be five bands playing that day, with his competing in the Beginner Band category.
While the band has been practising outside of class time, Hyatt has been evaluating them and awarding them credit on their report cards.
“The kids have really embraced it,” he noted.
In addition to the festival, the band also plans to hold a concert at the Morley Meadowside Manor in Stratton and at St. Francis School in Fort Frances.
“I agreed to take the band back there [St. Francis] and play for the students there when we received the instruments,” Hyatt explained.
OLW plans to continue the band program beyond this year, and has received word from the school board that it will be getting six more instruments, which already have been ordered.
“Just because we are a small school does not mean the kids shouldn’t have the same opportunities as larger ones,” Hyatt stressed.