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Honour band experience helps clarinet player expand her potential

Bass clarinetist Tanisha Sempla, a Grade 9 student at R.D. Parker Collegiate, feels extra motivation to practise after playing with Manitoba’s best high school musicians.
Grade 9 R.D. Parker Collegiate student Tanisha Sempla, left, who recently played bass clarinet in the Grade 9/10 provincial honour band in Winnipeg, and music teacher Stevie MacPherson, right, who encouraged Sempla to audition and helped record a video of her playing to submit.

Tanisha Sempla was definitely excited when she found out she had been accepted as a member of the provincial honour band a few weeks after submitting a video audition.

The Grade 9 R.D. Parker Collegiate student was doing homework one afternoon when she decided to call a friend in Winnipeg, where she lived before her family moved to Thompson.

“When I called her, the first thing she said was congratulations for making it into this honour band and I just actually started screaming,” Sempla says. “I opened up my computer that instant and I checked and I screamed some more.”

That moment was the end of a long, agonizing wait of more than two weeks since she had submitted her audition tape.

“I was thinking of everything that went wrong or not as good in my audition,” she recalls. “And then I tried to think of things that went OK and good. But then I felt like, ‘Is it enough? Did it tip over the scales for me to get accepted into this?’ And then I’d just be like, ‘Forget it. I’m not thinking about this anymore.’”

The only bass clarinetist chosen for the band, which was made up overwhelmingly of students from Winnipeg and the nearby area, Sempla was also the sole rural or northern resident selected for the band.

“Tanisha, on the list, was the only [bass clarinet player] accepted in the province which is pretty exciting,” said RDPC music teacher Stevie MacPherson. “After the panel heard her audition, they decided this is all we need is just one strong bass player.”

Even better than finding out she made the cut was spending two days performing with some of the best high school musicians in the province, Sempla says.

“It was amazing,” she said. “I’ve never been with such amazing people and they take their music so seriously. It was so much fun because I got to make music and that’s something I really love.”

The experience also opened her eyes to the fact that, as dedicated as she has been, there’s still room for further growth.

“I’ve always been really big on practising because I’ve always wanted to just get better and better and just hone my skill even more,” says Sempla, who’s been playing bass clarinet for three years, sticking with the first instrument that caught her eye. “Now I feel like I can practise even more than I previously realized because one of our rehearsals was seven hours long and I didn’t get tired through any of that so it feels like I’ve expanded my capacity.”

MacPherson says this could just be the beginning for Sempla, who was part of the Grade9/10 provincial honour band.

“She’ll have the chance of getting in again,” the teacher says.”It’s nice when we can send Thompson kids off to a band of that calibre of musicianship that they play in this ensemble because it’s really exceptional. They’re playing music beyond what our senior band could play.”

The example Sempla sets for other students can also have the same motivating effect on them that playing in the provincial honour band had for her.

“Tanisha comes back and shares her experiences and is just so much of a better musician after that experience,” MacPherson says. “It just strengthens everything in our program.”

Sempla says her participation left her wanting to do it again. 

“I’m just really glad I got a chance,” she says. “I kind of miss it already but I hope to go back next year.”

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