When you have one of the best band programs in the province, you want to perform for the best ears you can find. Which ears are more iconic than Mickey Mouse's?
The D.P. Todd Secondary School's touring band is heading down to Disneyland to perform inside the theme park and also go behind the scenes to see how orchestras record the soundtrack scores of popular movies. They will even get to try their hand at it themselves.
A band cannot simply set up in Disneyland and crank out the tunes. There is an application process and only those that attain a carefully curated standard are allowed in. Susan Klein, teacher of the D.P. Todd program, has been to the Happiest Place On Earth five previous times dating back to 1990 so she knows how to train her pupils to reach those performance levels. The 60 students and their adult chaperones are off in a few weeks to entertain the Disneyland crowds.
"Dallyn Long, there (she indicated an oboe player), her mom was in that first trip I did with the band to Disneyland," said Klein. She got a roar of laughter out of the students when she announced to the room "Yeah, so, I don't know if you understood, but all those forms you had to fill out? - one of them gave us the rights to your first-born child, they have to be in the DP Todd band, but I'll take them to Disneyland, too, you can come along as a chaperone, and we'll let you play in Disneyland again."
Mateh Kitalemire, 18, knows that Klein's bands really do hit the required notes to go on the road. Since he was in Grade 8 he has played clarinet and saxophone in Vancouver, Sun Peaks, Cuba and now Disneyland.
"I think it's so cool that we get to go to an actual recording studio for movie music," he said. "Disneyland will be fun, too, of course."
The travel music has allowed him to do is one more reason he appreciates the focus he's put on school band over the years, starting in Grade 6 at Foothills Elementary.
"There's a lot of good people in band, and always a variety of people, so there is always someone you like. I feel like I could have done more with my music, but I'm happy with where I'm at as a player. In the future, if there's a campfire, I'll have a tune for it. I really enjoy knowing the construction and composition of a song, and I especially loved learning a bit about how to write our own."
Around the band's practice room the students are dressed in their blue team jackets, but there are signs all around of the youthfulness of the group. There's a bright yellow Bass Pro hat on the head of a sax player, ripped jeans all over the flute and oboe sections, a toque back at the drum kit. These are youngsters - two in Grade 9, the rest climbing up to Grade 12 - but they have an entertaining command of the music. It was a pleasant listen to hear them work over segments of Route 66 and Life Is A Highway from the soundtrack of the animated movie Cars. And, what was that?
Was that a waft of our national anthem inside one of those songs?
The sheet music said New Forest March by Johnnie Vinson but it sounded more like it was standing on guard for thee.
"There was a 12-bar segment that reminded us a little bit of O Canada," Klein said. "So we wrote to the composer and asked if we could tweak it a bit and make it really, really sound like O Canada. He said yes."
As the band plays at Disneyland, any Canadian passersby or any Americans who happen to be hockey fans are likely going to stop and involuntarily look for the faceoff circle.
It's a bit of cultural fun, but it also taught those 60 kids that music has flexibility, and so do composers if you say please.
"Disney takes musical standards very seriously, and that's a big part of the importance of this trip," said Klein. "Those demands are there to ensure a high quality of work, that the entertainment industry is a profession and they are asked to be professional about what they do there."
There are about 200 students overall in the DP Todd Band program, including all grades and their various ensembles (jazz, concert, touring, their small community outreach bands, etc.).
It is traditionally the case that students arrive at Klein's doors in Grade 8 with a working knowledge of their instruments and introduction to reading music.
There are no elementary schools, anymore, that have band programs feeding DP Todd, and there are few across School District 57 that do.
"We have been there before," said Klein, optimistic in spite of this development. "We've had other times when we had to start band students out for the first time at the Grade 8 level. They are wonderful young souls, we believe in them, and we believe in what we do. We've seen such amazing results over the years, so we will always work with that."
A number of fundraising concerts have already been performed, as well as other money-making activities to cover the expenses of the band's trip. Another one comes up on Monday for parents and family of the performers, to get a sneak peek at what the band will be performing in California.
The public can watch DP Todd and many other performance groups during the MusicFest Fanfare Band Festival at Vanier Hall from April 24-26. After that, they're off to Disneyland.
The DP Todd band is also selling $2 wrist bands to support two of their former members. Grade 9 student Kyra Edgson is battling leukaemia at BC Children's Hospital, and her sister has donated bone marrow to help.
A GoFundMe page has been collecting donations for months, and more financial help is still needed by the family, so the band is aiding that cause.