Young Carlton band preparing for upcoming Christmas Concert

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald The Carlton Band practiced ahead of their Christmas Concert on Thursday, Dec. 7 in the Carlton Band Room. The band performs their annual Christmas Concert on Dec. 14.

It is Christmas season again and the Carlton Band will be hosting their annual Christmas Concert on Thursday.

The band has been preparing for many months for one of their signature events. Shannon Brodacki a Grade 9 Tuba player, said they’ve been working hard and are eager to hit the stage.

“We have a couple of pieces that are formed around Christmas songs and we’ve been practicing them since the beginning of the school year,” Brodacki said.

Amelie Ferguson-Dodge, a Grade 11 clarinet player, said the band will perform a wide array of pieces, which made the extra practice even more important.

“We’ve been practicing extra hard and there were some worrisome moments where we’re like, ‘are we going to make it because I don’t know,’ Ferguson-Dodge said. “There are so many different ranges of (students) playing. There’s some that are experts and there’s some that need help.”

This year’s concert band is a younger group. Although it draws musicians from all grade, there is only one Grade 12 performers this year, and just five from Grade 11. Grade 9 students outnumber all the other groups. The Carlton band has 89 members at this point.

Ferguson-Dodge said there was plenty of growth but at times it seemed like they did not sound like last year.

“We’re learning and we’re getting through it and it’s actually brought us closer as a band,” she said. “It is a huge deal. With our program and what we have that we’re going to be playing, I think it’s going to be really good. I am looking forward to it. I’m just hoping that we actually come together.”

Brodacki came from the smaller elementary band in Spruce Home, which combines with two other bands for large performances.

“It’s a big difference from playing two songs that aren’t even compared level to what we’re playing this year at,” she said.

Vraj Patel is a Grade 10 percussion player. He said that it is a tough position because percussion leads the rhythm.

“I’m still learning as it’s going on and it’s not just the Grade 9s who are learning,” Patel said. “Everyone is.”

Both Ferguson-Dodge and Patel said practice can be frustrating at times but they have learned a lot in their time with the band.

The band amalgamates from many smaller bands in Prince Albert and area as students get to Carlton.

Along with Brodacki coming from Spruce Home, Patel came from John Diefenbaker and Ferguson-Dodge came from Ecole Vickers.

Ferguson-Dodge said she missed her two formative elementary band years of Grade 7 and Grade 8 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and an injury.

“Coming into Carlton and basically knowing nothing about my instrument, it was actually really good learning experience and it was a lot easier to blend in, if that makes sense,” she said.

“I dislocated my thumb in my 8th grade year so I couldn’t even play the guitar. I really came in knowing next to nothing.”

Patel switched to percussion after playing another instrument before the pandemic. He essentially had no experience on drums and other instruments, but was eager to learn.

“I had some with rhythm and everything, but when I got in I had a great mentor,” Patel said. “He taught me just about everything that I know of until this point.”

Brodacki has been playing tuba since Grade 5 but she also lost some time due to the pandemic.

“I’m also coming from a band that has less than 20 kids, because we played with Red Wing and Christopher Lake so it was a smaller band,” Brodacki said.

Ferguson-Dodge said her experience at Vickers helped her to adapt.

“It was extremely different even coming because Vickers, I think, has one of the highest populations of the elementary schools,” she explained.

Carlton’s longtime band director Brenda Bernath is on leave. Janelle Matice is interim band director after years leading elementary school bands.

Ferguson-Dodge explained that the two directors have completely different personalities, but both have helped the musicians improve.

“Miss Bernath is such a direct teacher. She will like crack down on you and Miss Matice is this lovely, sweet girl that doesn’t have a mean bone in her body,” Ferguson-Dodge said.

Ferguson-Dodge noted that Grade 9 players are really putting in an extra effort. Ferguson-Dodge explained that Bernath taught her everything she knows about scales and that Bernath loves the program so much.

“She loves this band,” Ferguson-Dodge said. “She’s barely ever missed a band concert. She ended up missing our band trip, and I think that really hurt her personally. I know she’s missing us so much and we miss her.”

Ferguson-Dodge said that Matice was a great choice as new band director and both instructors are great.

Patel said that he could see the band being fully prepared because neither they nor the directors have given up.

“We are getting their,” he said. “We are definitely at the point that we were last time and I just can’t wait to get back into the Cafetorium.”

Ferguson-Dodge and Brodacki agree and can’t wait to begin the concert on Dec. 14. She said the program is amazing and as you spend time in it everyone becomes like family and friends that are inseparable

“It’s honestly an amazing program and it showed me a bunch of wonderful people,” she said.

Brodacki added that it is the same for those starting out in the program.

“We have to work together as a family and as a team and it’s awesome,” she said.

The concert starts on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Carlton Cafetorium and there is a silver collection.