Vic Lewis Band Festival - 'How you support each other is through the growth of community.'
This last weekend was the Vic Lewis Band Festival, a three-day, non-competitive music festival in the Rocky Mountains with the mandate to provide an opportunity for youth who want to express themselves artistically, expand their musical education and skills, meet like-minded people, and make lasting connections with their peers and mentors. This festival was founded in 1995 and is near and dear to my heart. We lost one of the founders of this festival, Mike Sakatch, to cancer this August so in many ways this year was extra special. We were all determined to bring our A games, to work hard, and have a lot of fun while celebrating the life of a man who meant so much to so many and whose legacy will live on in music long after we are all gone.
I have worked as a trumpet clinician for the festival since 1998 when I was a recent master's graduate from the University of Houston and filled with passion for the trumpet and music but not a lot of experience teaching. I remember how excited I was to be asked to work for the festival by Mike Sakatch and Julie Kehler and how much care and love they extended to me. Julie even met with me a few times after the festival to help me with a project I was working on, 'rocky mountain fairy tales' that kick started an entire new career path for me. At that time, the festival was still building and we didn't teach as many students as we do now but I remember loving the AHA moments the students had while attending the festival and being excited to meet the other musicians who were part of the event. At that time Al Muirhead was the jazz trumpet clinician and I was the classical trumpet clinician and he was so kind and welcoming and generous to me.
Fast forward 21 years and the festival has become a lot bigger, we teach twice as many students over three days, perform 2 recitals and the talent the festival attracts is extraordinary. This year Al Muirhead was the featured guest artist for the Friday evening concerts and was one of the jazz adjudicators. He was joined on stage by the festival's amazing jazz faculty and the incredible Reggie Thomas. Al still exudes the same warmth and generosity of spirit that he did 21 years ago and in so many ways he epitomises what this festival is about - community, artistic excellence, and education.
When we walk into the school on Friday to work there is a palpable excitement in the air to not only work with the students but to reconnect and share our love of music with colleagues we sometimes only see once a year. We also have Tracey Wilkin's chocolate chip cookies to look forward to and let me tell you they were once again DELICIOUS!
This year I decided to start my clinics with a student reading a poem or an inspirational quote before we worked on the basics of good musicianship and brass playing. They could choose from Rumi's 'Little Book of Life', Jen Sincero's 'You are a Badass', Shel Silverstein's 'Where the Sidewalk Ends', David Blatner's 'Spectrums' or Mary Oliver's 'Devotions'. This allowed me to really connect with the personalities of each of the groups who entered into my room and discuss why we create art before we started to create on the trumpet. After the clinic ended I asked each of the students to write a few words of what they learned on the white board in the room. There were some wonderful moments that happened over the weekend and I can say with absolute certainty the future is bright with these young people leading the way.
I was reading an article in the Banff Centre's magazine 'InStudio' this morning about Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey's work and I was struck by a quote of Dan Harvey's, 'How you support each other is through the growth of community.' This is very true and the Vic Lewis Band Festival has fostered growth in Alberta's music community for almost 25 years. Through this festival I have grown as a musician and an educator, I have made life-long friends and colleagues who inform and inspire my work as an artist but most importantly this festival has provided our musical community a place to meet where we can draw on each other for support and inspiration. The faculty, staff, volunteers and participants of the festival always leave the weekend tired but with a new sense of purpose for our work as community builders, musicians, educators, and artists.
Thank you to all the many people who have helped build this festival into what it is now and to the many people who keep the festival still running. Tracey Wilkins you are keeping the torch alive and you did a phenomenal job of pulling your team together with Ross McIntyre this year. Mike would be proud.