Kingston high school senior band takes top honours in New Orleans

The Regiopolis-Notre Dame Catholic High School Senior Concert Band celebrates with their Outstanding Band Award trophy and gold ranking plaque following the WorldStrides Heritage Music Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana, in April 2024. Submitted photo.

A local high school concert band has earned a pair of prestigious accolades – and in one of the most celebrated music meccas the world over.

Regiopolis-Notre Dame (RND) Catholic High School’s Senior Concert Band travelled to New Orleans, Louisiana, to compete in the WorldStrides Heritage Music Festival, where they brought home a gold ranking and the Outstanding Band Award.

On Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2024, the RND band members in grades 10 to 12 took off to ‘The Big Easy’ to participate in the competitive festival. The band has participated in this festival for the past two decades, competing in locations such as Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and London, England. The annual band trip took them to New York City last year, their first trip since the pandemic, and the first opportunity for the current band members to experience the the WorldStrides Heritage Music Festival.

In 2023, the band received a silver rating in the festival, prompting the current grade 12 students to set new goals and elevate their performance to achieve the coveted gold rating. The RND band entered in the high school concert band AA division and, after their performance, earned an adjudication score above 90, awarding them that gold rating — the distinction each musician had practised so hard to achieve. Additionally, they received the highest score among all the concert bands that had entered in the same division and were presented with the Outstanding Band Award for the festival.

The band director and department head of arts programming at RND, Justine Lord, explained that New Orleans was an exceptionally special place for her to take this group of students. Lord attended Sydenham High School and, in 2002, her music teacher took their band to New Orleans. After watching the Preservation Hall Jazz Band perform, she knew music must be a part of her life in one way or another, she said.

“I still remember exactly where I was standing and what the people looked like, and especially how it sounded. It was a core memory for me. I decided in that moment that whatever I did in my life, music was going to be a part of it. This time, instead of focusing on my own musical journey, I got to watch my students have that same experience that I did in grade 10,” Lord expressed.

 “They even got to go up and talk to the musicians after the show. It was so cool to see from a teacher’s perspective instead of a student’s and to know that those students were greatly impacted by these performances, just like I was,” she added.

Lord spoke of the ambition and dedication she saw from the Senior Concert Band members leading up to the festival, noting the difficulties a lot of those young musicians faced through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year we got silver, and the grade 12s all year have been asking if they think we can get gold this year. Those grade12s started off grade 9 during the pandemic, when we could not even play wind instruments inside. Their whole grade 9 music experience was going outside to play instruments when the weather was nice, or putting their instruments together indoors without using the mouthpieces and just moving their fingers over the keys. Since we could not use wind instruments in the classroom, they could only practice at home and send in videos,” she explained.

The Regiopolis-Notre Dame Catholic High School Senior Concert Band with Director Justine Lord (far left). Submitted photo.

Noah Erb has been a member of RND bands since the ninth grade, and this was his second trip with the band out of the country. Last year, he accompanied the band to New York City, a close location where the RND Senior Band travels every three years. Erb enjoyed both the experience of being in the band and the experience of going on the trips, he expressed.

“At the core of it all, I think it was a great experience, and a great performance,” said Erb.

To top off the trip, the band took a swamp tour of the Manchac Swamp in Frenier, Louisiana. The students and chaperones were able to look at the alligators and even got to hold one!

Charlotte Orr, a grade 12 student who joined band in her final year, enjoyed all the extra activities that the band participated in outside of the performance for the festival.

“[The trip] was really fun, and we got to hold a baby alligator named Louis, which was definitely the highlight of the whole trip,” laughed Orr.

Plans are already underway for next year’s festival. Lord will announce the destination at the school’s arts awards night, scheduled to take place on Thursday, Jun. 6, 2024, beginning at 7 p.m. in the RND cafetorium.

Rylie Snider is the inaugural member of the Kingstonist NextGen team, dedicated to fostering the passion and knowledge of local youth writers and reporters while highlighting the vibrant sports, arts, and social scenes of the younger generations in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington.
A Regiopolis-Notre Dame Catholic High School student, Snider is dedicated to keeping people updated on everything going on in our schools, and her coverage focuses on everything, from local sports and theatre, to fundraising events and opportunities for students in the area.
For more information on the Kingstonist NextGen team, email Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford at [email protected].

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