Host Chris Wolf chatted with Fort Richmond Band Director Cheryl Ferguson and two Manitoba band students who took part in the MBA's Solo Challenge.


During this past school year, Band and Choir teachers have had to think outside the box when it came to providing quality music education. Zoom has become a way of life for both students and teachers in all disciplines, and teachers have had to find new ways of using this technology to create successful lesson plans.

One of the real successes to come out of the pandemic in regards to music education is the Manitoba Band Association’s (MBA) Solo Challenge initiative that started as a direct result of the limitations that COVID caused for band students.

The Solo challenge was conceived by John Balsille who was the former President of the Manitoba Band Association. From this great idea; Band directors, Cheryl and Darryl Ferguson took the ball and ran with it. “It was a way that we were really trying to allow students to understand the importance of developing as independent musicians when they were not able to play as a larger ensemble and to show them ways they could be challenged and motivated,” says Cheryl Ferguson

The MBA’s Solo Challenge started for students back in December. Students had to apply to be in the Solo Challenge, and from there they were offered coaching from dozens of volunteer professional musicians throughout the Province. Audition recordings were due in January, and once all the recordings were in, they were then listened to by volunteer music teachers who judged the recordings and provided written feedback for each one of the students. Winners and honorable mentions were then picked in the three categories; Junior, Intermediate and Senior.

Close to 70 Manitoba Band students took part in the Solo Challenge, and by merely taking part, they all took away valuable lessons from coaching and adjudications…and for that they were all winners.

For Acadia Junior High trumpet student Sam Ferguson the Solo Challenge was an important addition to his 2020-2021 school year. “I really enjoyed the experience…it gives you a good goal to work towards in your practicing,’ as Sam says “it’s really just an enriching experience.”

This was a sentiment that was echoed by Grade 12 Fort Richmond Student Steven Hwang “It defiantly gave me something to look forward to, especially with the pandemic. Everything sort of paused last year, and hearing about this challenge made me have something to practice for.”

The MBA’s solo challenge is a project that will be an annual project after the pandemic is over. As Cheryl Ferguson says “It is one of those things that was born due to COVID 19, but will remain because of all the benefits it has created.”

The Manitoba Band Association’s Solo Challenge is just one of the amazing initiatives that help keeps music vibrant and alive in our Manitoba Schools. For more information on the MBA click here:

To hear Chris Wolf’s conversation with Cheryl and Sam Ferguson, and Steven Hwang click here: