Students at Mount Baker Secondary School in Cranbrook have been named as finalists in the national Canadian Music Class Challenge with CBC Music.
Students in Grades 11 and 12 are finalists in the senior vocal category, having put together a vocal jazz rendition of the song ‘Crabbuckit’ by K-OS.
Evan Bueckert is the music teacher at Mount Baker and runs the music program. He says that they have entered into the CBC Music Class Challenge every year, with the exception of last year.
“Each year I have entered a different group or combination of groups, so everyone gets to experience the fun, and the students have been received extremely well,” Bueckert said.
He explained that the CBC Music Class Challenge is a friendly national competition open to all music classes in the private and public school system in Canada from Kindergarten to Grade 12. It is held every year at this time. The competition wraps up on Tuesday, December 15 and the winners will be announced.
“It’s a fantastic way to promote the importance of the arts in education in our country and to give students a chance to see what music students in other schools are doing as well,” said Bueckert. “CBC presents a list of Canadian content songs to choose from, and then we come up with our own version. We are given little to no sheet music to work from; the song has to be our own design and arrangement. They are not covers, so originality is encouraged.”
He adds that a panel of judges choose their favourite entries based on marks for originality, participation and overall quality.
“However, groups are allowed to use multiple microphones to record everything separately for a better sound mix, which is what we did at Baker,” Bueckert said.
Austin Dolan, who is a tenor singer and in his third year of the music program, says getting the sound right was one of the biggest challenges.
“The main challenge, I think I can say as a group, was getting the harmonies and rhythms to blend together,” he said.
Layla Gross, who is a soprano and in her second year of the program, agreed.
“It was definitely a challenge to make sure that everything blended, especially when we added in microphones and had to make sure everyone’s volume matched,” she said.
Bueckert says that in light of COVID-19, this year’s ensemble sizes had to be reduced, which was a challenge. He says keeping everyone safe and healthy is the top priority at Mount Baker and that the cohort environment has allowed for some added flexibility in their work.
“So for our entry, the ‘Baker’s Dozen’ was reborn,” he said. “We just learned that the group has also been placed in a new category this year called the Top Auditioned Group class, which is one of the most elite classes in the contest.”
Talk about nerve wracking. Gross and Dolan say it’s an honour to be a finalist against so many other talented musicians and singers.
“It makes me a little nervous, the pressure of being judged and potentially having the whole world watch,” Gross said. “But I’m more-so pumped up. I think we all feel that way.”
Dolan agreed, “there are a lot of talented, heavy hitters in the category we’re entered into. But now that we’re finalists, there’s a better mesh. It feels pretty amazing to be a finalist in such a high-level skill category.”
In terms of the song choice, Bueckert said he knew it would be a hit among the students and their talents.
“Of all the wonderful songs on the CBC list, K-OS’ ‘Crabbuckit’ has been a favourite of mine since it came out in 2009,” said Bueckert. “The story is very poignant, and the roots of Canadian hip-hop are important. I knew that the groove and swing of the tune would be a hit with the group.
Dolan and Gross say that the common goal of creating this piece for the competition has been meaningful.
“It was really something to look forward to,” Gross said, “and it brought a lot of purpose to our singing.”
“It was a super good idea to create and send in this video. To be able to have the video with the song really showcases the singers and allows everyone to see them do their thing,” Dolan said, adding that they have their music teacher to thank.
“Thank you to Mr. Bueckert for sending in the video, it has been a great experience.”
Bueckert says that the biggest reward has been having a real-world goal and seeing the delight and happiness on everyone’s faces as the song came together. Icing on the COVID-19 cake, as he put it.
“We reworked arrangements all the way along and kept adding and tweaking elements to make it our own,” he said. “And, each time, rather than things getting more complicated, the students got into the groove more and more and bonded even more as a musical family. All that moovin’ and groovin’ in the video performance is entirely spontaneous and unplanned. There is nothing quite like creating something together like that.”
Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.