Two Saanich schools are among the six winning entries for the 2017 CBC Canadian Music Class Challenge.
Both Arbutus middle school and Campus View elementary will have their versions of the CBC Olympic Theme aired on CBC during the PyeongChang Olympics in February. They’ll each receive a state-of-the-art classroom recording kit valued at more than over $5,000.
Arbutus students erupted in applause and cheers when their principal made the announcement over the PA system on Friday.
Check out the winners for this year's #CBCMusicClass Challenge announced last Friday on @CBCRadio2 and @cbcradioq! Congratulations to the winning classes! https://t.co/kaxzTtC3Xk pic.twitter.com/Xscfqb3l6Y
— CBC Music (@CBCMusic) December 19, 2017
“The kids are over the moon, it’s crazy around here,” said Arbutus music teacher Michael Mazza. “It’s a nice injection of pride, people are enthusiastic about music in this school and this helps.”
It’s the second straight year winning for the Campus View Orffestra of Grade 4 and 5 students, while the Arbutus Mixtape Orchestra of Grade 7 and 8 students won on their first entry, an anthem style composition that uses indie-rock clapping and local First Nations drums.
Winners for the competition were announced on Dec. 15. There are only six, an instrumental and a vocal track for each of the high school, middle school/junior high and elementary levels.
The Arbutus Mixtape Orchestra video opens with Joshua McIndoe singing before it pans to the rest of the band, which slowly kicks in as the song builds with a catchy guitar riff by the jazz band guitarist. Then there’s indie-inspired claps and ‘heys,’ and the drums.
Mazza collaborated with Jennifer Hill, the other music teacher at Arbutus, on the track.
“Students made the drums here, and students and teachers have been taught the teachings of the drum [through the SD61 Aboriginal Nations Education District],” said Mazza. “We chose to use our student-made drums as a representation of the diversity of our school and our country.”
“I just loved the performance because it had so many fun and interesting things going on: singing, drumming, the funky guitar solo, clapping and the ‘heys’ all came together to provide a dynamic, multi-layered performance that was very entertaining and moving,” said Julie Nesrallah, one of the judges and host of CBC radio’s Tempo.
Mazza said it was Campus View winning last year that inspired him and Hill to do the same at Arbutus.
Campus View won the elementary instrumental category in 2016 with their version of Shawn Mendes’s Stitches.
The effect of last year’s win was monumental for the school, as 117 Campus View students showed up to join Jody Onuma’s after school Orffestra band at the start of this year.
Onuma had so many students in the band it was too many so she split the group into two.
What turned out to be the winning group was 20 children doing the instrumental version of the CBC Olympic theme. However, the other group, which was 95 students, also made top-10 (out of 160 entries), entering into the vocal category.
“We are so proud of the kids and so excited to have to top 10 finishes,” Onuma said.
The 95-student Orffestra vocal group actually partnered with another 60 students from Quebec’s Honore Mercier elementary, using Facebook live to rehearse together. Each group made their recordings to the same midi track and timing so that Mercier teacher George Anthopoulos, who reached out to Onuma for this collaboration in the summer, could blend the two performances onto the same video (the music itself is paired but not edited, per the rules).
Onuma started the Campus View Orffestra five years ago based on the Orff method of teaching music with xylophones and recorders. That first group of kids five years ago was just 17, then it grew to 40, before jumping to more than 100 this year.