Thompson student achieves high note with National Youth Band of Canada

Kendra Martinussen, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student at R.D. Parker Collegiate, has been selected to perform in the prestigious National Youth Band of Canada for the second year in a row.

This year’s event runs from April 26 to May 3 in Halifax. The musicians, aged 16 to 22, are from across Canada. The National Youth Band program has been running since 1978, and provides students with an opportunity to network, perform with other high-level musicians, and receive mentorship.

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Martinussen, whose favourite type of music is jazz, has dedicated six years of hard work to the bass clarinet.

“It’s been the love of my life,” she said. “Then I started playing saxophone and jazz, which are the other loves of my life.”

Speaking of her first-year audition and application, Martinussen said that she had little idea about who she was competing against.

“You never know if you don’t try,” she explained. “My best friend Abbey and I were up against people in university. We were so proud of ourselves, and so amazed that we got in.”

RDPC band teacher Stevie MacPherson, who played in the National Youth Band of Canada before becoming an educator, is overjoyed with Martinussen’s ongoing success.

“If you’re up against students who are in university across the whole country, this is a big thing to shoot for,” she explained. “We’re totally overwhelmed in the band department.”

Speaking to Martinussen, MacPherson said, “Your perseverance over the last two years to make it into this ensemble has blown us away.”

Martinussen is eager to begin her week-long adventure in Halifax.

“Last year we didn’t know what we’d be walking into,” she explained. “It’s been a life-changing experience. I felt so accepted there…to be myself.”

Meeting like-minded musicians has been pivotal for Martinussen, who is eager for intellectual expansion and broadened horizons.

“It’s just really amazing,” said the born-and-raised Thompsonite. “People from all over Canada is a super cool thing. You can really get into discussions and debates about things.”

Being one of the youngest members of the ensemble has not fazed the prodigy, who is clearly comfortable in her own skin.

“The other players just scoop you right in,” she said. “They are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.”

Martinussen explained that family support has been a critical component of her success.

“My family is super proud,” she said with smile. “My parents are very excited to see a different part of Canada. They are planning a whole trip around it.”

Last year, the National Youth Band of Canada played a 20-minute piece called I Lost My Talk, which is derived from a poem by Mi’kmaq poet and residential school survivor Rita Joe.

I Lost My Talk was originally for an orchestra,” Martinussen explained. “My director, Dr. Mark Hopkins, spent the whole year prior arranging it for wind band. I Lost My Talk is about reconciliation, and our entire repertoire was about being Canadian, which gave us a sense of pride. It’s important that we express that message.”

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