Not all that long ago it was beginning to look like traditional music education, in the form of concert band curriculum, was going to be a thing of the past in the Greater Trail area.
School District 20 and the majority of local schools had cancelled in-school music programs with only Rossland Secondary holding on to it’s band class.
However, with the scheduled closure of the Rossland secondary program and students moving to J.L. Crowe, it looked like even that last bit of music education was in jeopardy.
Then fate intervened when one of the Trail city council members approached the Trail Alliance Church to inquire about the possibility of any kind of a program that might give youths in the area something to do.
“I’m so thrilled, the community got behind us,” said Terry Moon, a former band teacher at Crowe and now the music program administrator for the Trail and District After School Band. “It was needed and wanted and the grants and donations we’ve received shows the community doesn’t want music to die in this area.”
The church is supplying the facility, storage for the instruments, administering the program, and the congregation provides any needed additional support.
When Moon began the program in January, 2013 it faced an uncertain future but soon the people of Trail and area began offering instruments that had been sitting unused in their homes.
“There has probably been almost $50,000 worth of instruments donated and we’ve been applying for grants,” Moon said. “We’ve now brought in about $40,000 in grants and everybody who wants to play can.”
The After School Band began with seven beginner students and nine intermediates and has now grown to a total of 25 split between the two levels, with participants coming from Trail, Warfield, Fruitvale, Rossland, Genelle, and even as far away as Castlegar.
Rather than drawing potential music students away from the newly revitalized music program at J.L. Crowe, the After School Band is now acting as a major supporter of the school-based curriculum by providing additional structured music training and time to practice with their instruments.
“About 90 per cent of our students are in the Crowe band program,” Moon said. “We’re supporting them to learn their music for the school program as well as additional music with us.
“They’re getting music lessons from both sides.”
Another way that the community-based program is hoping to contribute to the musical life of the Greater Trail area is by becoming a feeder program for the venerable Trail Maple Leaf Band.
“A number of the players in the Maple Leaf Band are getting on in years and they don’t march anymore, they weren’t getting many young people joining up,” Moon said.
“Now they have recognized the After School Band as the Jr. Maple Leaf Band and four of our students are playing with them.”
The band held its first public performance for the Alliance Church’s Christmas concert last December, has been booked for the 2014 Warfield Days celebration, and is planning a spring concert in May.
Moon says the band is thriving and is extremely grateful to the community and many financial donors such as Kootenay Savings, Telus, Columbia Power, the Le Roi Foundation, Teck, the Columbia Basin Trust, and the local municipalities and RDKB but are looking to grow and are still applying for additional grants.
“We want to get the message out there that there is room for more kids,” he said. “We can handle about 25 more and can provide one instrument per student minimum. But we’re looking for another $25,000 to cover consumables and repairs.”
The band holds practices every Tuesday afternoon and anyone interested in joining the After School Band can contact Terry Moon through the Trail Alliance Church.