Didsbury High School band students came back from Toronto last week as national champions.

The concert band, and the school’s jazz combo called the Minor Six, both received a gold ranking at MusicFest, a national music festival. DHS’s band was invited after its performance at Acadia University last spring. DHS band director, Kirk Wassmer, said the event in Toronto welcomed 250 bands from across Canada and about 7,000 students. Also, the Minor Six was able to perform at The Rex, a traditional jazz venue.

“I am so proud of the students,” said Wassmer. “They played incredibly well, and even in a challenging circumstance. The band was moved to a venue that wasn’t acoustically what they were used to. There was a lot of echo, but the kids were professional. They adapted and pulled it together for an amazing performance.”

photo of jazz bandPhoto courtesy of Chinook's Edge School Division

Wassmer said bands are ranked against a standard: either merit, bronze, silver or gold. Wassmer observed there was a balance of bands at each ranking level, “so achieving gold is really meaningful.”

“I thought our saxophone section did really well,” said Ally Crampton, a Grade 11 student, referring to the symphonic band’s performance. Crampton said she was most nervous for the performance of the Minor Six at The Rex. “We just started this band in 2023 casually and for fun, and we are just from a small town. To win gold and to be able to perform at the Rex was a big deal. We practiced a lot - like 14 hours a week for a couple months before the trip. I was jittery leading up to that performance. I’ve been on lots of stages but I was still nervous and wondered if we would do well. I wondered ‘do I know what I’m doing?’ Then we got out on stage in that beautiful venue, and it was a breeze. To see that our hard work has paid off, and that we aren’t too bad at music, it’s pretty cool. I feel accomplished.”

Another recognition went to Grade 12 student Mackenzie Dodman for her percussion work with the Symphonic Winds. The award is given to students who demonstrate exceptional leadership within their ensemble.

“This was an amazing trip,” said Wassmer, who will retire from teaching June. “For my final trip with the DHS band, it couldn’t have asked for more. I am just so glad I got to spend time with those kids.”