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Didsbury High School bands earn gold at nationals

Symphonic Winds, Minor Six score big as director earns outstanding award
Kirk Wassmer, left, receives the I. Keith Mann/NAC Orchestra Outstanding Band Director Award. CESD photo

DIDSBURY - Didsbury High School (DHS) musicians have finished in top spot at a national band competition in Toronto.

The school’s concert band, called Symphonic Winds, and the school’s jazz combo, called Minor Six, both received gold rankings at the prestigious MusicFest national music festival on May 14-18.

The Grade 10-12 concert band is made up of 75 students under the direction of longtime teacher Kirk Wassmer.

In all, 250 bands took part in MusicFest this year, with about 7,000 student musicians performing.

“They played incredibly well and even in a challenging circumstances,” Wassmer said in a release from Chinook’s Edge School Division. “The band was moved to a venue that wasn’t acoustically what they were used to. There was a lot of echo, but the kids were professional. They adapted and pulled it together for an amazing performance.”

Drew Delong is Grade 12 DHS student who plays clarinet in the concert band and alto saxophone in the jazz band.

“We were all in shock when we won gold,” said Delong. “It’s been enlightening that it’s not just or community and parents tell us that we are an amazing band. Outsiders, including distinguished adjudicates, are telling us that. It’s been something we’ve dreamed about and it was amazing to get there.”

Grade 12 student Mackenzie Rodman received recognition for her percussion work with the Symphonic Winds.

For his part, Wassmer was named the 2024 recipient of the I. Keith Mann/NAC Orchestra Outstanding Band Director Award.

The award is named after Innisfail High School band director Keith Mann and awarded for exceptional band directors from across Canada.

“To have my name added to the list of outstanding band directors is quite an honour,” said Wassmer. 

Meanwhile, Cremona School’s Grade 7 and 8 band has received an invitation to attend MusicFest 2025. The invitation came following the band’s recent performance at the Alberta Band Association Provincial Festival of Bands in Red Deer.

“I’m tremendously proud of the students,” said Alex Hutcheon, band director at Cremona School.

Dan Singleton

About the Author: Dan Singleton

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