The school year has officially started and both Band Directors and their students are breathing a sigh of relief, as in person band is back in schools as mandated by the Province. It is certainly an exciting time for all those involved in Band Programs throughout the province.

For Chelsey Hiebert, Executive Director of the Manitoba Band Association, the resumption of band in schools is exhilarating. “The most exciting news that we are hearing is that band is back, and that is what we are waiting for…of course it is looking different all across the Province. Programs are adjusting for the best fit for the schools, the divisions and the students, but we hear a consistent theme from pretty much every band director that it is a real restart moment. Kids are in band rooms and they are excited… and it is just great to hear music again.”

For Westgate Mennonite Collegiate Band Director Ross Brownlee the sense of liberation is enormous. “It’s the biggest relief, and a weight off my shoulders because I think for myself, and for all of my colleagues who teach music...we do so because we love making music, and we love sharing that with the kids, and seeing their excitement. It was sort of a collective sigh of relief when we were able to restart doing what we were trained to do and what we love to do!”

The return to in person band is not without its challenges. Social distancing in the band rooms is being observed and bell covers are being used to increase safety. There is also the fact that most band students are almost two years behind in their skill level. Despite this, the students enrolled in band are rising to the challenge and are driven to succeed. “We are all sort of re-adjusting, but it is a very interesting process,” states Brownlee

Thankfully, Manitoba Band Directors have a very strong and robust support system. The Manitoba Band Association provides high quality initiatives for both students and teachers. Events, such as the various Band Festivals, the annual Solo and Ensemble Festival, and various Divisional and Provincial Honor bands are all projects that the MBA is involved with.

This year they have started a new initiative to help Band Directors rebuild their programs post COVID lockdown. The MBA has started the “Looking Forward” program that works as a peer support structure for Band Directors who want to bounce ideas off of each other. Student recruitment and retention, skill development, teaching values and philosophies to foster growth in band programs are all potential issues that will be covered in the “Looking Forward” initiative.

The sense of joy and anticipation from both Band Directors and students about what this upcoming year holds is infectious. As Ross Brownlee says, “What a joy making music together is! It’s such a community. Nobody loses when you make music, there isn’t a winner or a loser, you’re always winning and you’re always learning, and you can raise the bar. It’s such a positive thing!”

Band in schools is back in Manitoba, and both students and teachers are enjoying the renewed sense of delight and purpose in making music again.

To find out more about the Manitoba Band Association click here:

To see Chris Wolf’s Conversation with Westgate Mennonite Band Director Ross Brownlee and Manitoba Band Association Executive Director Chelsey Hiebert Click here: