It's just a few hours before show time at Memorial University's Cook Recital Hall and Ms. Korona Brophy, who directs the Faculty of Education's Lab Band and Orchestra Program, along with aspiring music teacher Emma Clark of St. John's, arranges chairs and music stands preparing for an influx of Grade Five students.
It's the program's annual holiday concert, and though this ritual has been repeated numerous times for more than 30 years, no concert is ever the same.
Over three decades
That's because every year a new crop of Grade Five students from elementary schools around St. John's sign up for the program, and a new crop of pre-service teachers prepares to lead them twice a week after the regular school day has ended.
"Working with children and sharing my teaching experiences with pre-service teachers is something I really enjoy," said Ms. Brophy, who has instructed the program for the past 10 years, after retiring from her 30 year career as a school music teacher in the city.
"This is great experience. We're getting them (pre-service teachers) ready for teaching, showing them how to do assessments, reports, and how to motivate and work with children," she said.
The lab band and orchestra program was initiated in 1976 by a legendary music educator and teacher named Leo Sandavol, who taught at Memorial and was a band teacher at St. Pius X School in St. John's. It's an integral part of the Faculty of Education's Instrumental Music Teaching Methods (ED3920) course and attracts would-be music teachers from across the country.
This year's cohort of students is home-grown, from communities around Newfoundland and Labrador.
Young musicians have arrived for their final rehearsal and soon clarinets, flutes, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, violins, cellos, electric and base guitars are in the hands of young musicians.
Percussionists take their places at the back of the stage where they'll move between the drums and bells.
"I love this," said Ms. Clark, a pre-service teacher from St. John's who assembles her own flute and helps tune other wind instruments. Even though her mother is a music teacher, she never expected to pursue a teaching career.
"Lab band is so cool. All of us have never taught all of these instruments until now, but you have to say ahead of them to stay ahead of your students." Pre-service teacher Emma Clarke
"I was a performance major in my fourth year, and I had a couple of music students, and began to discover that I'm a teacher," she said. "Lab band is so cool. All of us have never taught all of these instruments until now, but you have to say ahead of them to stay ahead of your students."
Her experience in lab band, and in her conducting classes, has changed her as a musician.
"It's a great experience for them (the pre-service teachers)," said Ms. Brophy. "They're teaching all of these instruments for the first time and getting feedback."
"You make friends and learn lots," said trumpet player and St. Matthews Elementary Grade Five student Desmond Young, one of the first to take his place on stage. "And you sort of get a step ahead of the band program (at school). I think I'm gonna do band all my years."
Working in 45-minute classes twice a week, students do progress quickly. It's great for their confidence.
"I can go high and low," said Mr. Young whose repertoire for the evening concert includes Jingle Bells, Jolly Old St. Nicholas and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
"We've learned to get a really good sound," said Grade Five student and clarinet player Veronica O'Brien, joined by her best friend and fellow clarinetist Anna Bownia. "And when we started out we didn't even know how to put our instruments together. Now we can play all kinds of songs."
The two girls attend Cowan Heights Elementary with her best friend Anna Bownia, a fellow clarinest in the lab band. "I like that you get to spend time with different teachers."
Pre-service teacher Anna Moreau of St. Johns loves seeing how children who had a difficult time when they first started gain confidence in their skills. "Teaching makes me happy," she said. "I love working with kids."