Investing in high school music

SHDHS receives $10,000 CARAS instrument grant

Story and photos by Casey Lessard

Music students at South Huron District High School are blowing new horns after the school’s music program received a $10,000 equipment grant from the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS).
“You’d be surprised how much equipment costs,” says music director Isaac Moore. “We were able to refresh every section a little bit and that helps us out in terms of the longevity of the program’s equipment in general. We got three flutes, three clarinets, three trumpets, three trombones, one new baritone, one tenor sax and two alto saxes.”
Close to 70 senior band members use a school instrument, and the intermediate band adds more users, so the need for decent equipment is high.
“Having one that works well makes a huge difference,” says saxophonist Trish Pavjeke, who uses her own instrument. “Some of the older saxophones are gross. They’ve been used for 100 years. The keys stick and the necks swivel back and forth. I’ve tried the new ones and they’re really nice. They work perfectly.”
While Pavjeke’s 100 year estimate is a bit off, former music teacher Bob Robilliard says some of the equipment was due.
“When I first came here, the equipment was one year old,” Robilliard says, noting the program started in 1986. “Most of that equipment is still here and still being used. Most school line equipment has a life of 25 years. It gets a lot of use.”
CARAS issued 60 MusiCounts Band Aid grants across Canada in 2009, and South Huron is one of the only rural schools in Ontario receiving the grant. Letters of support from the community were key to getting the grant on the first attempt, Moore says, noting some schools try many times unsuccessfully.
“It came around at a nice time for us,” he says. “The instruments have been heavily used. I wasn’t sure how we would pay for new ones. Having good equipment for the kids to play is really motivating. Without this, I’d have to build a case to the board, which has been very supportive of us, but its budget is finite like ours.”
As a result of the grant, some of the school’s older equipment will be transferred to another school in the board.
The band showed off the equipment for the first time at this weekend’s school concert, but Moore suggests the audience may not see a noticeable difference in sound, but it certainly makes playing easier.
“It’s like buying a new car. It’s not like it takes you anywhere faster, but it’s a more enjoyable experience and lasts longer. Eventually things need to be replaced. Plus, the older it is, the more you have to put into repair, so that will save us a lot.”
And while the actual sound may be the same, music council president Joe Pavjeke thinks the musicians will sound better because they’ll have more confidence.
“It’s like we’re getting recognized for our work. The students notice that. It shows that what we’re doing is a big deal.”