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Kelowna Secondary School prepares for Encore 2014

Sheila French instructs her class, although it
Sheila French instructs her class, although it's not during regular class hours; the students are practicing on break.
— image credit: Jennifer Smith

Growing up in Cranbrook, Renee Tull's dream was to be the maestro of her own success and sing in a big chamber choir or play in a full concert band.

While she may only be in Grade 10, her sights are set on a university music program—possibly at the University of Victoria—and the experience of performing with a mass group of classmates is the best possible training ground in her eyes.

When asked why she is so clearly pumped about joining the Kelowna Secondary School's music program this year she answers:

"Because it's my life."

Tull took voice lessons from Grades 1 to 7, two years of piano instruction, three years of guitar and she is now enrolled in Ladies Chamber Choir, Chamber Choir, Concert Choir, and the Rhythm and Blues Band.

She's not alone. Of the students practising for the school's annual concert showcase and fundraiser, Encore 2014, almost all of them are involved in more than one group and many, if not most, have taken outside training to polish their skills.

Kennedy Koren has technically already graduated from high school, but the winsome soprano stuck around for her final semester to take Chamber Choir, Ladies Chamber Choir and Rhythm and Blues Band.

"I just love singing with everyone together. That sound is so different and so pretty," said Koren. "…And having that sense of community."

This week, as their contemporaries were studying for final exams and enjoying a week away from the regular classes, the music students were hard at work polishing notes and perfecting performance style.

Music is essential to life, according to teacher Sheila French, one of the key forces behind the exhaustive program.

Before the parent committee steps in to assist, before the students start trying to figure out if they can really do a Wednesday class schedule that runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., French must thoroughly research the music selections.

This process takes up much of her summer and, at this point in the year, she's already got a good deal of next year's picks worked out. Each year she balances the talents and strengths of the students that show up on the roster with the vision of the show—and, of course, she teaches them the music.

"Kill me now! Do it right so that I can erase that," she shouts as the group working Tuesday hit a note slightly off pitch.

Her highly-animated style seems to meet the needs of the group perfectly as they bounce from goofy teenage cacophony to polished vocal ménage with the strike of a piano key to call their attention.

Some 16 groups will perform in the annual event this Tuesday, Feb. 4 and Wednesday, Feb. 5 at Kelowna Community Theatre. While most of the students are from KSS, there are some who enrol in two schools at once just to have the opportunity to learn in the KSS music program.

Striving for perfection seems to strike a chord with these students.

"I didn't get a chill bump and a tear on that, where I did before," said French as the group ran through the same few bars for the umpteenth time.

Encore 2014 will include performances from the Night Owl Orchestra, Concert Band 10, Jazz Band 11, Jazz Combo 12, Jazz Combo 10, Concert Choir, R&B Band, Vocal Jazz, Jazz Band 10, Vocal Jazz Combo, Jazz Band 12, Jazz Combo 11, Senior Concert Band, Men's Chamber Choir, Ladies Chamber Choir, and Chamber Choir.

Tickets are $15 for one night or $25 for two; students are $10 for one night and $15 for two.

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