St. Bonaventure's music program part of a well-rounded education

  • August 25, 2009
{mosimage}It’s been 10 years in the making. But for St. Bonaventure’s College music teacher Vincenza Etchegary, the sweet sounds of success for the school’s choir, wind ensemble and jazz band have paid off with a chance to play at a music festival at the famed Carnegie Hall.

“The difference between our students and some other groups was the conviction with which the children play and sing,” the 20-year teaching veteran told The Catholic Register from St. John’s, Nfld.

Etchegary was one of the founding members of the Jesuit-run St. Bonaventure’s music program a decade ago. It teaches students from kindergarten to Grade 12 in the Newfoundland capital.

The private school is the youngest Jesuit school in Canada and is the only co-educational and all-grade Jesuit school in the country.

St. Bonaventure’s College opened in 1999, two years after the provincial referendum which ended public funding for Catholic schools and created a single, secular education system.

Fifty-four students in the wind ensemble, jazz band and choir travelled to Anaheim, Calif., for the Heritage Festival music competition at Disneyland in April which featured about 2,000 students from 82 groups. It was the school’s first time entering this competition.

One of the prizes for taking first place was an invitation to compete at a music festival at New York City’s world-renowned Carnegie Hall next year. But Etchegary said since the invitation is open for two years, the school might wait another year when both the choral and band festivals will take place at the same time.

Grade 12 student Lucia Westin was part of the group that received the award. A member of the wind ensemble and treble choir, Westin said playing at Disneyland was one of the trip’s highlights. The first-place finish in the competition also led to a studio session and performance at Disneyland a week after the festival, where students performed with Disney studio musicians. The students also brought home souvenir CDs and DVDs of their recording sessions at Disney.

It was a “surprise win,” said Westin, who has been playing the clarinet at the school for six years. It has also encouraged her to continue in music.

The school’s entries came closest to a perfect score of 300 and received 11 awards at the festival.

It was a surprising feat for a small school of less than 200 students, Etchegary said. She also noted that the students took to heart one of the judge’s comments about the choir: “If you commit yourselves to other aspects of your life as you are as committed today, our world would be a better place,” Etchegary recalls.

“There’s something about these children,” she said. “They know exactly that whatever you do, if you want to do well, you have to put your heart and soul into it.”

And the win also echoes the school’s commitment to a well-rounded education, Etchegary said, which includes its music program. St. Bonaventure’s College’s philosophy has been that music is an important part of a child’s development, she said.

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