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Fort High band members off to ‘Honour Band’

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It’s a workshop for only the best in high school band across Northwestern Ontario--and it was the chance of a lifetime for five local students.

Heather Keeler (baritone), Shaunna Cuthbertson (alto sax), Norma Kallstrom (trumpet), Kendra Ogden (trombone), and Jennifer Sinclair (French horn) left Monday morning for “Honour Band,” a program started by teachers Jim and Lisa Jack at Churchill High School in Thunder Bay.

Local band director John Dutton said the program has run for about the last four years, with students from Fort High having gone each year.

“They contact all the band directors in Northwestern Ontario,” he said. “They go as far west as Kenora and as far east as Marathon. Then they put in a list of their [six] potential players.”

The five females were the ones who made the cut here, joining a symphony of other talented high school musicians for what probably would be the most intense musical experience of their lives.

“It’s a tremendous two days,” Dutton said.

Once the girls received their sheet music Monday afternoon, they had to endure eight-hour rehearsal sessions in preparation for last night’s showcase concert.

“A normal band couldn’t do that,” Dutton said. “It’s a high calibre of band.”

“Honour Band” is nothing new to Kallstrom, having attended once already. But she seems to have gained a little prestige this year, moving up to first trumpet.

“I was shocked because last time I went, I was third,” she said. “I gained two positions--I’m like the ‘MuchMusic’ hit list.”

For Keeler, going to “Honour Band” this is a second chance, having turned down an invitation to take part last year due to a family emergency.

“It’s awesome, thrilling,” she said. “I’m so excited because I’m going into music. It’s a chance for me to taste what it’s like to play with people who really want to play.”

The experience was totally new for Sinclair, Ogden, and Cuthbertson but that didn’t make them any less enthusiastic Monday morning.

“It sounds like fun,” Cuthbertson said. “It [also] sounds like a lot of work but for the experience you’ve got to give it a try.”

“I enjoy playing so it will be neat,“ Ogden said.

“I want the chance to play with more than one French horn [in the band],” added Sinclair.

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