Lakeside Academy’s Jazz Band keeps hitting high notes

By Matthew Guité

Not many high school students can say they’ve played at the Montreal JazzFest, but the students that comprise Lakeside Academy’s All Star Jazz Band certainly can. The band, which involves students from Grades 7-11, has been active for only four years but has already had a string of successes thanks to the hard work of the students and their music teacher Joanne Blondin, including a chance to perform at last year’s JazzFest.

Kathryn Macaulay, the band’s pianist and a Grade 11 student who’s been playing piano for more than half her life, told The Suburban how they came to play at such an internationally-renowned event.

“Last year at the Jazz Fest du Quebec we got silver, but there were a few people who were involved in the International Jazz Festival who were at the competition, and they said that they wanted us to play at the Jazz Festival,” she said. “We played for an hour at the Rio Tinto Alcan stage, and there were a lot of people there. We practiced every day for hours just to be ready.”

Macaulay said that for all the hard work put in by the students, their successes wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of Blondin, who started the band four years ago when she came to Lakeside.

“Ever since, she brought the music program up to what it is now. She started the band the first year that she was there and it’s been really amazing ever since.”

As well as landing a spot at last year’s Jazz Fest, the band also managed to earn gold at the Jazz Fest des Jeunes de Quebec competition this year. This led them to earn silver last month at the MusicFest Canada national competition in Toronto where they faced student jazz bands from across the country.

Despite only being at the school for a few years, the band has become an integral part of many students’ lives and has grown immensely since its inception, Macaulay said.

“It’s amazing. We started off with not too many people, but we’ve really grown. The band has evolved a lot and we’re really improving. I’ve made so many friends with the band, we’re like a family,” she said.

Macaulay mentioned that some of her best memories were of her time spent with the other members of the rhythm section, Kevin Matos, William Isabey, Jesse Comitogianni and Jordan Bird. As for any new or returning students who might be considering joining Lakeside’s jazz band, she says that the experience is incredibly rewarding.

“It’s a lot of work, but to see the process of learning all these songs and to master those songs is just the greatest feeling,” she said. “I can guarantee that they’ll love it.”

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