Pre COVID, the Winnipeg School Division’s Divisional honor band was a vibrant, engaging and inspirational event that fostered the growth of some of Manitoba’s finest young musicians.  Over the past two years the honor band was silenced; another casualty of the COVID lockdowns. This year however, it is back, albeit in an adapted form. Band students who go to schools in the Province’s largest division will be able to show their remarkable talents via an online concert.

To put the size of the Winnipeg School division in context, most of the High Schools in the division have more than 1000 students, and consist of the following schools:

  •           Sisler High School
  •           Elmwood High School
  •           Ecole Churchill High School
  •           Daniel McIntye Collegiate Institute
  •           Grant Park High School
  •           Tech Voc High School
  •           Gordon Bell
  •           Kelvin High School
  •           St. Johns High School

The honor band has been taking place in the division for 24 years, and is an initiative created by the highly devoted Band Directors in the Division in collaboration with the Division office.

The band is put together by the Band Directors. The teachers put forward the names of their superstar students, and from this list a full sized wind ensemble is created. As Mark Sawatsky, Band Director at Elmwood High school says, “It’s comparative to a hockey draft…we (the teachers) put forward all of our students from  each school who we think could use this opportunity to really shine, and possibly get out of their comfort zone…maybe play more challenging rep.”

The benefits for both the students and the teachers are vast and rewarding. For Alexis Silver the Band Director at Sisler High School the benefits have many facets. “Leadership for sure…it offers those students who need a little bit of enrichment the opportunity to play higher level repertoire. What the students bring back to our programs, there is some excitement, and a different sense of the rehearsal process. When the students come back to my program, they are excited and they talk about it. There is also a little bit of a shift in the way they participate in our rehearsals.” Students who take part in the honor band become leaders, and take this leadership and enthusiasm back to their school band programs. This only serves to increase the level of performance and confidence by all students who take part in band, in the Division.

There are professional development benefits for the Band Directors as well. The teachers learn rehearsal techniques from the visiting guest conductor, who this year is Dr. Wendy McCallum from Brandon University. The teachers also observe visiting instrumental clinicians who are highly trained on a specific instrument, whether it is trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, trombone etc. From these professional musicians, the teachers take away tips for how to solve technical problems with specific students, on their specific instrument.

Rehearsals for the Divisional Honor Band are intense. Students gather together for two days before the concert, never having played together as an ensemble. Over the two days students rehearse all day long in both full band and clinic settings. The end result is a highly polished wind ensemble performance by the students.

The Winnipeg School Division's honor band is an incredibly valuable asset to music education here here in Manitoba for both students and teachers. Enrichment opportunities are indeed immeasurable for both parties. This year, due to COVID, the Winnipeg Divisional Honor Band is an online concert. This is an excellent way to view the accomplishments of these very fine Manitoba student musicians.

The performance will be recorded on Friday, May 6th, 2022. And will made available soon after that. Stay tuned as a direct link will be added to this article as soon as the concert is made available.