For the first time in its history, Orillia Secondary School (OSS) is hosting a music festival for student bands across the region.
More than 35 student ensembles from nearly 20 high schools are at OSS this week to showcase their talents in the Sunshine City School Music Festival, which began Wednesday and runs until to Friday.
The festival, formerly hosted in Collingwood, is taking place in person for the first time since before the pandemic, with bands assessed by adjudicators for selection to compete in a national event later this year.
The three-day event — featuring about 600 students from 16 high schools in the region — was organized by OSS music teachers Laura Lee Matthie and Laura Christie, who took on the effort after learning Collingwood would not be hosting the event this year.
“We saw that there was just no opportunity for students to qualify for nationals without something like a regional festival, so we decided to take on the job of running one,” Matthie told OrilliaMatters. “The students all learn about teamwork and responsibility, and it’s extremely powerful for our kids to be preparing for this type of event.”
Beyond benefiting the students, Matthie said, the festival is positive for the community.
“It’s awesome. I think it’s great for our students. It’s great for our community to showcase Orillia because it really has lots of great musical things happening,” she said.
The students, as well, are excited to take part in the festival.
“This is kind of what we always do music for — to come together — and so, to actually be able to do it now … feels right,” said Ashley Greenwood, a Grade 12 trombone player at OSS. “I’m just really thankful for all the adjudicators and the teachers putting it together.”
Competition, she said, helps to bring the students together.
“I just hope that we play well and that we feel good about ourselves and that we get closer to each other, because I feel competing and being close always helps us come together," said Greenwood.
OSS managed to participate in an event with Orillia high schools last year, but Grade 12 student Jack Smith, who plays the trumpet, said this year’s festival is a different experience.
“It’s really cool. (We’ve) had events that are kind of local, so whenever we had concerts or whenever we did plays, it felt like really cool being a part of it, but this is just like another level of it,” he said.