By Chris Putnam
Members of the University of Saskatchewan (USask) Wind Orchestra had a leading role at this year’s National Youth Band of Canada in Toronto.
Dr. Darrin Oehlerking (DMA), director of the USask Wind Orchestra and a faculty member in the Department of Music, conducted the national band in May. Six USask students, all of them members of the USask Wind Orchestra, were selected by audition to participate in the band.
“It was incredible to be able to work with some of the best and most talented woodwind, brass and percussion students in our country,” said Oehlerking, who is also the College of Arts and Science’s interim associate dean of student affairs.
Hanna Hashi, a music education student who recently completed her first year at USask, was one of 49 musicians aged 16–22 from across Canada chosen to perform in the national band from May 10–15.
Hashi jumped at the chance to be part of an in-person experience with the ensemble in Toronto. This year, the 30th anniversary of the national band, was the first time it has performed in person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In Toronto, we essentially spent three full days learning and running through several pieces to get them ready for our performance at the end. Because we spent hours rehearsing together, it was also a quick way to form connections and bond with fellow band members,” said Hashi, a trumpet player from Winnipeg, Man.
During their visit, members of the band also visited Canada’s Wonderland theme park, where Hashi rode Canada’s tallest roller coaster—“which was a goal of mine to conquer,” she said.
Each year, the Canadian Band Association chooses a renowned Canadian conductor to lead the National Youth Band. Oehlerking—whose ensembles have earned numerous outstanding performance awards and who has served as an adjudicator, workshop presenter and clinician across North America and Europe—was selected for the honour in 2021.
When the 2021 event was cancelled due to the pandemic, Oehlerking organized a virtual event in its place. He was thrilled to be able to lead the band in person in 2022.
“While the musical experience was one of the most rewarding of my career, the incredible community that was formed and fostered in such a short time demonstrated what incredible human beings these students were,” said Oehlerking.