Community Papers

Rockridge’s music program hits a high note

The music program at Rockridge secondary rivals any in the school district, says  director Ian Brown.

“We don’t want to take second place to any school in the district, public or private,” he says proudly of his Grade 8 to 12 band students.

Brown’s goal is to increase enthusiasm about learning music while giving students role models to look up to.

“I work on as high a level of music that the kids can do,” he tells The Outlook, adding it’s vital for professional musicians to visit the classes.

Last Friday, as part of a program with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, around 100 students went to the symphony’s rehearsal at the Orpheum Theatre downtown and will see an actual performance this week.

The program also included visits from musicians from VSO, who taught the band selections  such as “Night on Bald Mountain” by Modest Mussorgsky.

“By participating in these kinds of programs, they want to play at a high level and their goals and objectives are much clearer as a result,” says Brown.

But a love of music starts earlier than high school.

That’s why Brown started the Rockridge Zone Concert Band, which brings elementary students together with his classes to learn what band is like in high school.

“I think the process of learning music is very similar to learning sports because skills are learned only by practicing,” Brown explains.

“The students learn teamwork because they have to work individually and be precise as a team at the same time.”

But keeping kids interested in music can be difficult, says Brown, with the increasing use of technology in and out of the classroom. Music, which involves face-to-face interaction, is a “socially vibrant activity where kids grow a lot,” he adds.

Each year, five or six students go on to learn music at university.

Former Rockridge students are now at UBC, SFU, Capilano University and the Berklee College of Music in Boston, one of the top music schools in North America.

But the skills learned by band students go beyond music.

“Even if their jobs have nothing to do with music, what they learn is very important in life,” Brown explains. “Employers have discovered those students who study music are good at teamwork and complicated task.”

Rockridge’s next performance is the annual Jazz Café on Feb. 2, where the audience will eat traditional New Orleans food. For more information, visit


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