A group of students from Kelowna will be travelling to Ontario for a national music competition this May.

Rutland Senior Secondary students will be competing at Music Fest Canada in Niagara Falls. The concert choir and concert band groups will be there for four days to compete, take in the sites and watch shows.

Jeff Saunders and Sarah Wandy are the music directors at RSS and are excited for the opportunity their students are getting. Saunders says this experience is one the students have worked hard to qualify for.

“So to qualify for nationals, you have to receive an invitation from a local festival, which in our case is the Kiwanis festival,” says Saunders. “It’s kind of like a five point scale. I think it’s poor, fair, good, excellent, superior. Our concert band received a superior rating at Kiwanis last year, therefore, they got to qualify.”

The school’s concert choir was invited in 2020, right before COVID. To encourage in-person visits to this year’s festival, Music Fest Canada extended the invitation. Saunders says it’s tough for the students who’ve graduated since qualifying but the students who are able to go are excited and working hard.

Both the school and the students are fundraising to make this trip possible.

“Things like private music lessons, professional instruments, workshop opportunities, all these things are a little bit out of reach for our kids. So for a lot of these students, this is their one and only opportunity to get to do something like this,” says Saunders. “For it to happen organically through the school and just by sheer teamwork and hard work that’s making them feel really proud to be excited.”

Music Fest gives students the chance to be adjudicated by professional musicians and college professors. Both music directors are proud of the work their students are putting into the upcoming festival.

“We have the best kids to work with and it’s our pleasure to work with them toward this experience. We trust them and love them,” says Wandy.