Carly SchroederMusicFest chooses Carly Schroeder as one of the best music students in Canada; three SHDHS bands competing nationally

Story and photo by Casey Lessard

Grade 12 student Carly Schroeder is representing South Huron District High School and her hometown of Dashwood when she heads to Ottawa next month (May 12-18) to perform in the MusicFest Canada national concert band. But her parents won’t be there to see it.
“We’re feeling really bad about that,” says mom Brenda Schroeder. Before they knew Carly was accepted into the band as an alto saxophonist, Brenda and Steve had booked a trip to visit Carly’s brother, an RCMP officer in B.C. “We leave on Thursday and she performs on Friday. The timing’s all bad, so we’re hoping there will be CDs or DVDs that record the event. When it comes to your kids, you like to see them in such situations.”
You can’t blame the Schroeders for making plans; her selection to be part of the band was certainly a surprise to Carly.
“I didn’t expect to get chosen,” she says. “It was a little overwhelming at first. I was like, Are you sure?”
An email mix-up didn’t help. After sending the first confirmation message, something confusing happened.
“They sent me a second one that was addressed to Ryan someone. I emailed them back and a couple of weeks later, they sent me another email to say yes, that I was in. It was kind of a long process.”
That process began when music teacher Isaac Moore helped her record a CD of work learned during lessons with Ryan Fraser of London.
“The pieces I played were not your typical alto saxophone songs,” Carly notes. “The first song I played had this growling part to it, and it was really fun. I wasn’t sure what they’d think about it. Then there was another second movement to it that was more typical.”
The judges must have been impressed, says MusicFest Canada executive director Jim Howard.
“It’s very difficult to get into the saxophone section because Dr. Jeremy Brown (the head of music at the University of Calgary) is a world-renowned saxophone player,” he told the Strip from Calgary. “She must be very, very good to get in there.”
“This is kind of the ultimate honour band,” he adds, noting the band consists of 55-60 students from across the country. “It’s an amazing experience. We run it like a camp as opposed to running it like a touring band. Yamaha provides clinics to sectionals with them during the week. They get access to the MusicFest Canada master classes, and they get to play music they’re normally not going to get to play. They’re playing such a high level of music, even university bands aren’t tackling the repertoire these kids are going to play.”
University scouts will be at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa to hear Carly and the rest of the band play, bringing with them $100,000 in scholarships to attract the best to their schools.
The band will practice for nine hours a day for four days, and then perform twice as a group. Howard estimates about 2500 students will jam the hall to see them perform. A big event for a small-town teen who became attracted to the saxophone as a student with Exeter’s Lori Erb.
“My parents put me in Music for Young Children when I was six,” Carly says. “That was piano, and I picked up the saxophone in high school. I loved jazz and blues, and I played my first blues song on the piano. That’s when I decided I wanted to play saxophone.”
“At about Grade 3 piano, she was wavering and wasn’t enjoying it,” Brenda adds, “and Lori had the insight to let her have a whole year of playing blues and jazz, staying away from the conservatory pieces. That was a real turning point for her.”
Besides jazz and blues, Carly loves classic rock, favouring the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Classical music can be heard when she’s studying. And there will be many more years of that. She’s planning on becoming a high school music teacher.
“Music has always been a huge part of my life,” she says. “I don’t see my life without it. Seeing this high school music department, it’s awesome how it brings people together.”
Bringing people together is what the music department does best, and three of its ensembles are heading to Ottawa with Carly. The senior concert band, wind ensemble and percussion ensemble excelled at the regional MusicFest in London last month, with the percussion ensemble earning the coveted gold status.
“It’s nice to be recognized for the hard work we do here,” says teacher Isaac Moore. “The national thing is pretty special because it means some of the best bands in the country come from right here in Exeter, Ontario.”
The music department’s annual Cabaret will showcase some of the work being performed at the nationals. The Cabaret happens Saturday, April 19 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 20 at 2 p.m. All of the department’s bands will be featured.