Picture this: 40 musicians playing ultimate frisbee in the snow… with a purple unicorn.
That unicorn is more commonly known as Mr. Piché, the head of the Music Department at WCI, and ultimate frisbee was only one of the activities students participated in during the three music retreats that were held throughout this school year. The Music Department can be proud of its advances this year towards growing and strengthening WCI’s music community through these retreats as well as WCI’s first daytime concert ever, held in December.
When asked about the purpose of music retreats, Mr. Piche said, “Students get to work with amazing guests and build their overall musicianship. The goal is to grow our sense of community while experiencing an amazing and fun enrichment opportunity.” He also hopes they will become a staple for the Music Department.
Walter I., who plays viola, said, “The main reason as to why I attended the music retreat was to learn from the guest musicians. I wanted to obtain a second opinion from other music teachers, as well as receive any form of constructive criticism. Because I was the only violist that attended, I basically got a private lesson during sectionals.”
Music retreats are two-day events for music ensemble members from the orchestras, concert band, and choir. This year’s activities included a scavenger hunt, percussion workshop, movie night, concerts, sectionals, leadership building activities, karaoke, and an improvisational workshop with one of Canada’s top fiddling session musicians, Shane Guse.
“We got the feeling of being a professional orchestra,” said Megan A., who plays the double bass. She went on to say, “I also felt more accomplished after the full orchestra rehearsal and it felt like we could do anything.”
Why three retreats? Each retreat was geared towards a different group of students: the joint leadership retreat with KCI in September for Music Council, the Senior Orchestra retreat in December, and the music retreat in February for Junior and Intermediate Orchestras, Concert Band, and Choir.
WCI has many music students because of the Strings Magnet program, so having opportunities such as these music retreats is important for building a music community and creating a space for the program to grow. In fact, Music Council, which is made up of the students working behind the scenes, works alongside Mr. Piche to make community their top priority.
According to violinist Jack B., this objective was met. He said, “The retreats really help to create as sense of family in the various music groups. Orchestra members have little interaction with each other during rehearsals, and the retreats are a great way to bring us together.”
Another orchestra member, Aditi V., who also plays the violin, observed, “All the activities were engaging and allowed me to get to know some of the Grade 9s.”
“Every student gets impacted in different ways,” said Mr Piche, “but I think two huge things are a better sense of community with their ensembles and growth as musicians.”
This year, great lengths were taken to ensure a reduced cost for students wishing to participate, the most prominent change being the location. In the past, transportation was one of the most expensive items that impacted the fee. However by changing the venue to Hidden Acres Camp, the location for ABCD (WCI’s Student Council) retreats and now music retreats, the trip is more convenient and less expensive. Despite the reduction in cost because of this location change, some students questioned whether the retreat should still be so costly.
Regardless of cost, many students were able to identify something memorable about the experience, including the ultimate frisbee game, the scavenger hunt, and guest musicians. Aditi described her experience in this way: “I came back from the retreat with a happier mindset, especially happy that I was not ignored but instead included in activities.”
Article: Sarah Ingram
Photography: Walter Illman