Fort High’s music program has received a $10,000 boost thanks to a grant from the Canadian music education charity, MusiCounts.
“It’s great for the music department, it’s great for the kids because they benefit,” lauded Fort High vice-principal Peg Keffer about the grant, which is for purchasing new musical instruments for the school.
“It just improves the program and allows more kids to try new instruments, different instruments,” she noted.
“And it can allow us to have a bigger collection, and maybe even more members in the band.”
Fort High is one of 71 schools from across the country to receive a grant from MusiCounts—the charity associated with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts.
A total of $560,000 is being dispersed to these schools for this year through its grant program.
“This is to me, this is just amazing that we were actually considered,” noted Keffer, pointing to how the grant program is Canada-wide, with many schools applying.
“We’re very excited and very appreciative of being able to have this and receive it.”
While some students have their own instruments, the majority use the ones provided by the school.
“[The grant] is making it more accessible for kids because we have more to offer, we’ve got more instruments to offer,” Keffer remarked.
“And some of the instruments that we have have travelled a lot,” she added. “They’ve gone on a lot of trips and get dented up, and banged up just from going off and on airplanes, so they get wear and tear.
“So this will allow us to replace some that are in this shape.”
When it comes to purchasing new instruments, one of the areas the music program will be targeting are larger ones that are expensive and which students normally wouldn’t rent on their own, explained Fort High music teacher Lisa Loney.
For example, they’re looking to get a new three-quarter size tuba—an instrument that is needed but not one a student typically would rent or purchase on their own.
“Mostly I’m looking at lower brass instruments like tuba, baritone, French horn so we can build up that section of the band,” Loney said.
“If you want to have a really balanced sound, you [need] an equal distribution of instruments,” she stressed, likening it to a rock band without a bass player, where you can tell there’s “kind of that sound missing.”
“So if we have more instruments, spreading over more of the sections, then we can get a better balance of sound,” she reasoned.
“We have some amazing students here, and a lot of them are so quick to learn something new,” Loney added, noting that if a certain section or sound is missing, students will step up to learn how to play the required instrument.
“So it’s nice to have an instrument there for them in order to do it, so if there’s a gap, they can fill it.
“But if there’s no instrument there, they can’t fill the gap.
“[And] kids like shiny new things,” Loney chuckled, “Even though that doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s a better horn, it is nice to play on something new—something no one else has ever played on before.”
Now that Fort High has been awarded the grant, there are some “pretty quick deadlines” they have to meet, noted Loney, who is putting together the “wish list” to be sent to both music stores and MusiCounts.
As for making the grant happen, Loney credited Keffer for her work to get the grant application written.
“This wouldn’t have gotten going if it weren’t for her,” she said.
As well, two students were instrumental in the push for the grant.
Grade 12 co-op student Miranda Halvorsen, for instance, undertook an inventory of all the instruments—not just compiling a list of what instruments the program had, but going through every single case to catalogue any problems in order to create the detailed list that was required for the grant process.
Meanwhile, Grade 12 student Kari Manty wrote “a really engaging letter,” Loney noted.
“I read it and I was like, ‘If I were on this committee, I wouldn’t turn this school down, this is a great letter,’” she lauded.
But Loney stressed parents and other students also wrote letters to show their support for the program and why the grant was needed.
“Sometimes students think they can’t make a difference, but I’m thinking that it’s because of their efforts that we got this,” she remarked.
“We get a lot of support form the community, as well,” added Loney. “We get a lot of community support, but this is icing on our cake, for sure.”
Community support for the program also was something Keffer emphasized.
“This music program has been around for quite a while—25 years, at least—and there are a lot of community members who have benefitted from the program and continue to benefit from the program,” she noted.
“And there’s great support in the community, which we appreciate.”