'Band geek' fest underway

Chelsea Powrie

The annual Okanagan Concert Band Festival is back in town, bringing teenaged school band members from around B.C. and Alberta together for two days of free performances, learning and collaboration.

Over 28 schools are attending this year's iteration of the over-30-year-old festival, including local bands from KVR and Skaha Lake middle schools and Penticton and Princess Margaret secondary schools.

"The smallest band would be somewhere around 16 kids and the largest would be close to 100," said Don Grant, festival coordinator and band teacher at Penticton High. "It's kind of a festival of band geeks. There's lots of excitement."

Meghan Stayberg, a flute player in Grade 12 at Princess Margaret, has been coming to the festival as both a performer and a volunteer coordinator since Grade 6. 

"I love it every year," Stayberg said, adding she'll be said to have aged out next year. 

She enjoys the chance to be adjudicated by experts in music, to help her hone her own craft and gain a different perspective than the one offered by her usual band director.

Stayberg also looks forward to the "Band-o-Rama," which takes place every day at noon.

"Anyone who's in the festival can come down to Cleland Theatre and we all pay as a giant collective," Stayberg said. "For people who come from small schools, to be able to play in a band with hundreds and hundreds of people, it's just really incredible."

On Tuesday evening, a special concert from the University of Calgary Wind Ensemble will also take place, an opportunity that Grant thinks is important for the students.

"It's nice for the kids who are just getting into the band scene to see how the university kids play," Grant said. 

The students' performances are open to the public, and take place throughout the day Tuesday, March 6 and Wednesday, March 7 at Cleland Theatre at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. 

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