Abbey Smith and Kendra Martinussen are taking the R.D. Parker Collegiate music program into uncharted territory this spring, as they will be performing with this year’s National Youth Band of Canada May 5-12.
Music teacher Sarah Lewis says the duo are the first RDPC students to ever book this high-profile gig, which will feature the country’s best 16- to 22-year-old musicians playing at a series of concerts throughout southern Manitoba.
“We’ve never prepared auditions for National Youth Band and we had no idea the level of students that they were up against,” said Lewis. “So it’s really encouraging to know that we put forward two auditions from our program this year and both of them got in.”
Smith and Martinussen could barely contain their excitement about the trip when they sat down with the Thompson Citizen on Feb. 14.
“It’s the experience of a lifetime,” said Martinussen, who is in Grade 11 and plays the bass clarinet. “And who else can say, ‘Oh, I went to National Youth Band with my best friend.’”
The pair already got a sneak preview of what this experience will be like last fall, when they both successfully auditioned for the Manitoba Band Association’s 2018 senior provincial honour band.
“The repertoire we got to play was unlike anything we’ve ever seen playing with bands in Thompson,” said Smith, who is in Grade 12 and plays the French horn. “It’s just at a whole other level. University-level music. So it was really crazy that we got to go and play with all these musicians who are our age.”
However, the National Youth Band program is on an entirely different scale.
Rather than play at a single concert, Smith and Martinussen will be performing at six shows in Steinbach, Gretna, Brandon, Dauphin and, finally, Winnipeg.
Throughout this time, the pair will also get to rub elbows with big players in the Canadian music scene, including members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Winnipeg Wind Ensemble.
“The guest conductor this year is from Acadia University,” said Smith. “He’s a wind ensemble director there and that’s where I plan on going to school. So I’ll get to meet him before I actually go, which is really cool.”
More than anything, the two are just happy for the opportunity to represent the RDPC music program on such a massive platform.
“I definitely think it shows a lot about us,” said Martinussen. “A lot about our teachers and a lot about our program, that even though we’re so far up north we can be competitive and we can make it into these ensembles.”
The Canadian Band Association has been organizing these National Youth Band tours annually since 1994, although they did put together two shows in 1991 and 1978 as well.