Music teacher Justin Ratzburg leads Trafalgar Middle School band students during a performance on Dec. 16. Trafalgar has made band classes free and mandatory for all Grade 6 students. Photo: Tyler Harper

Music teacher Justin Ratzburg leads Trafalgar Middle School band students during a performance on Dec. 16. Trafalgar has made band classes free and mandatory for all Grade 6 students. Photo: Tyler Harper

Nelson school bets on unique music program

Band is now a free and mandatory Grade 6 students at Trafalgar Middle School

Justin Ratzburg couldn’t help but be a little concerned.

Last year, Trafalgar Middle School’s band featured around 65 kids. This year nearly 200 students would be performing in two December concerts prior to the holiday break.

Ratzburg, who moved to Nelson this year from Vancouver to teach music at Trafalgar and L.V. Rogers, wasn’t sure how it would sound when so many new students made their public debuts. But that anxiety ended when the concert began.

“I was really happy with their performance. They were all practising really hard and they all played in time together, and that was really a miracle,” said Ratzburg.

“I guess I had my doubts, I had my worries. There was a chance it would completely fall apart, but they’re all good musicians. It’s a natural ability and they’ve followed through and did a great performance. I couldn’t be happier, I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Trafalgar’s band isn’t just special because it can play “Ode To Joy.” The school has made its music program mandatory and, crucially, free for all Grade 6 students as of last September.

Previously, music was optional for Trafalgar’s Grade 6 to 8 students. Parents were asked to pay $100 to cover the cost of an instrument rental, although that fee was covered by School District 8 if it was a barrier to entry.

Now Grade 6 students participate in band and, if they choose, carry on with it in Grade 7 and 8 as an elective.

Ratzburg said it’s rare for a B.C. school to make music a core subject, especially on the scale of Trafalgar’s program.

“It’s become pretty common for it to be an after or before school activity,” said Ratzburg.

But principal Paul Luck is betting music education will lead to a happier, more academically successful school.

“It’s an amazing cultural shift,” said Luck. “The kids walking around with their band instruments, it brings a lot of joy to our hearts in our school and kids are very excited about it.”

The emphasis on music education is part of what Luck describes as a renewed focus on student mental health at Trafalgar and within the district.

In November, the Ministry of Education announced a $2-million investment in school-based mental health programming. School District 8, which received $30,500 from the ministry, has hired Javier Gonzalez as a co-ordinator of school mental health and addictions while also adding counselling and intervention services.

Superintendent Christine Perkins said she believes the benefits of music education aren’t limited to academic success.

“Music has a lot of positive benefits in addition to also helping ironically with numeracy results. It helps lift depression, it helps people relate to people and build empathy.”

For Trafalgar, that mental health focus has resulted in small changes such as the addition of a spin bike room for students who need what Luck describes as a calming activity, or larger scale initiatives like the expanded music program.

Luck said accommodations have even been made to include two students with hearing disabilities in the Grade 6 band.

“What I’ve seen is once you’ve joined a band, you’ve make friends for life,” said Luck. “I see that all over our community. So I think band is an important thing for us at this school because if you are trying to model for students how to get along with each other, how to work collaboratively, then band is the perfect venue for that.”

Ratzburg said typically only a fraction of students from a grade join band. Now he’s excited for the future of music in Nelson with more kids being exposed to a music program.

“It’s quite a vision, but I think it’s an excellent way to re-amp music culture in town,” he said. “Where other band and music programs are dwindling and falling apart, this one’s getting better. It’s great.”



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jogas Espresso Café was one of three Grand Forks establishments targeted in Sunday’s vandalism spree, Jan. 17. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Vandalism spree targets Grand Forks businesses

City RCMP said they arrested a male suspect Sunday, Jan. 17

A map released by the BCCDC Friday, Jan. 15 shows five diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks health area. Photo: Maps: COVID-19 cases in BC, British Columbia Centre for Disease Control website
Five COVID-19 cases reported in Grand Forks area

The BC Centre for Disease Control announced the cases in a weekly update Friday, Jan. 15

Zoey Uniat is now three months old. Photo: Submitted
Castlegar baby with rare disorder progressing towards coming home

Fundraiser for Zoey Uniat has raised more than $50,000

Pioneer Arena is closing for the season. Photo: John Boivin
Castlegar’s Pioneer Arena and Nelson Civic Centre closing for season

RDCK is closing the ice at two of its arenas due to financial concerns related to COVID-19

Les Cleverly, formerly of Grand Forks Fire/Rescue, is suing the city as well as current and former city firefighters over alleged workplace bullying and defamation. File photo.
Former Grand Forks firefighter suing department, city over alleged conspiracy, constructed dismissal

Plaintiff Les Cleverly filed a notice of civil claim with the Supreme Court of BC in last week

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Gin, one of the Kantymirs’ two sheep. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Sheep start up ATV, sit in cars and go for walks in Salmon Arm

Until they bought two sheep, Ken and Karleen Kantymir didin’t realize just how social the animals are

Heather Lucier, a pastor at Kelowna Harvest Fellowship, speaks to an RCMP officer outside of Harvest Ministries on Sunday, Jan. 10. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna church fined 2nd time for violating public health order

Harvest Ministries in Kelowna has previously said they will fight the tickets in court

Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons was appointed to the NDP cabinet as minister of social development and poverty reduction after the October 2020 B.C. election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. job training fund increased for developmentally disabled

COVID-19 has affected 1,100 ‘precariously employed’ people

B.C. driver’s licence and identity cards incorporate medical services, but the passport option for land crossings is being phased out. (B.C. government)
B.C. abandons border ID cards built into driver’s licence

$35 option costing ICBC millions as demand dwindles

sdf
2nd in-school violence incident in Mission, B.C, ends in arrest

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

BC Emergency Health Services has deployed the Major Incident Response Team (MIRRT) as COVID-19 positive cases rise in the Williams Lake region. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
B.C.’s rapid response paramedics deployed to Williams Lake as COVID-19 cases climb

BC Emergency Health Services has sent a Major Incident Rapid Response Team to the lakecity

(Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP say ice climber seriously injured after reportedly falling 12 metres near Abraham Lake

Police say man’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Most Read