The Music and Explorers group from G.H. Dawe Elementary School. (Contributed photo).

Young musical explorers from Red Deer’s G.H. Dawe School perform Friday

Students adapted their own musical score

A xylophone band of elementary school musicians will be letting their creativity unfurl during a public concert for Planet Earth on Friday, June 8, in Red Deer.

The 22 Grades 2 to 5 students attend an after-school enrichment program at G.H. Dawe, one of the city’s most socio-economically challenged schools.

Music and Explorers allows the young children to play tunes they have composed for their percussive instruments, while singing at the same time. “It’s more than I could do,” joked Chandra Kastern, executive-director of the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra.

The RDSO is a co-partner in the program also made possible by the Red Deer Public School District Foundation, G.H. Dawe staff and funding from the City of Red Deer, Red Deer and District Community Foundation, and the Sutter Fund.

The theme of this year-end student concert at 5:15 p.m. at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre is the planet and the environment.

Kastern said the students picked an appropriate song, practised it, and then figured out how to play its melody on their instruments — all under the guidance of music program educator Calista Lonsdale-Tangle (who’s also the school’s band director).

The Music and Explorers program was started 2016 as a way of providing musical enrichment for promising young students, who might not otherwise have a chance to take private music lessons, said Kastern.

Back in 2015, school officials at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School were concerned about falling enrolment in their band program, she recalled. They realized the high school draws students largely from North Red Deer, where many elementary and middle schools did not offer band programs.

An instrument drive was started throughout Red Deer, and so many horns, trumpets and clarinets were donated that many public schools benefitted, including G.H. Dawe, Normandeau and Central Middle School.

Once more school bands were started, or expanded, the next step was trying to enhance the music experience for some students — and the non-profit Music and Explorers was formed, said Kastern. She’s hoping to access more funding in future to expand the program to other schools.

It offers young musician two public shows a year. The last concert was performed to a sold-out crowd at the Red Deer College Arts Centre at the RDSO’s Christmas concert.

Kastern said everybody is welcome at Friday’s concert at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre. Admission is by donation to the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society.

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