By Timothy Schafer
For years Mike Konkin would regale his son Jackson with stories about his trumpet playing days in a local band.
Growing up in the Silver City, Mike was one of the legion of benefactors from a very vibrant and deep band program offered in the city—delivered by the godfather of music, Clark White—and he made use of his musical training, playing trumpet for years in a Trail-based group.
When the love of trumpet passed to his son Jackson, the younger Konkin couldn’t wait to put down his guitar and take up the new instrument when he reached Grade 6 at St. Michael’s Catholic School.
It was the grade the band program was made available to students, but the program was axed from school curriculum two years ago before Jackson was old enough.
After a disappointing year without the trumpet last year, the 12-year-old Grade 7 student was able to follow in his father’s giant steps through a new after-school band program now offered by the Alliance Church.
Called the Trail and District After School Band Program, Jackson and dozens of other young, aspiring musicians are now able to pick up an instrument and learn the sonorous art that is fast disappearing from city schools.
“I love this,” Jackson said at only his second class. “I didn’t think I would get a chance to learn.”
Although Jackson had his dad to show him some of the basic licks on the trumpet—how to make a sound, how to use his breath—most of the other young people in the program are raw rookies, said Debbie Peebles, a retired music teacher and the program’s director.
She joined the program as a volunteer to help fill the gap and keep alive what has become an endangered species: band programs and lessons for young people.
Peebles said it was now through the Alliance Church program that the rich tradition of music will continue in Trail.
With nearly two dozen students already in just a few weeks of operation—students from Greater Trail and Genelle, Rossland, Fruitvale and one from Castlegar—there is room for more, and adults are welcome to come and learn as well, said Peebles.
“This is for anyone who wants to come in at any level and learn music and an instrument,” she said.
And there are other motives for the program, said Terry Moon, the founder and driving force behind the creation of the program.
“This is an opportunity to get (kids) away from phones, off the streets and to get them excited to be team players as they find success playing songs and music that we all love,” he said.
And it was made possible by the people of Trail, said Moon, who have been nothing short of incredible.
“They looked under beds, in closets and dusty dark spaces, found and donated more than $22,000 worth of instruments at replacement cost to us,” he said
Kootenay Savings Community Foundation gave a $10,000 donation to the band program while St. Michael’s has loaned the program instruments and music worth nearly $6,000. The Trail Maple Leaf Band has also donated instruments. School District 20 is renting equipment and instruments to the program, and school principals have notified students about the music lessons.
Even though it is now operating people can still support the program, said Moon.
“Find and send kids to the program,” he said. “Please keep looking for those instruments and send them to us.”
Despite the community support there is some cost involved in participating in the program, with a $50 annual fee per student to cover the cost of rentals, repairs and other expenses.
“However, if this cannot be met for some reason we will find a way to make sure no one is turned away from the band program,” said Moon.
Lessons are every Tuesday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. for the beginner classes, and 4:45-5:45 p.m. for the intermediate group at the AMP building at 3375 Laburnum Dr.
Call Terry Moon at 231-7177 or Debbie Peebles at 367-6412 to register for classes.