A new percussion course is set to start in MGCI for the upcoming school year. It will focus on the drum set, snare drum, and techniques for various percussion instruments. It may also introduce drums and techniques from a marching band. While the course is labeled AMP201, a Grade 10 course, it is open to anyone. The suggested twenty person class cap size will allow students to take advantage of new equipment depending on how many people sign up and the school’s budget. The course will be taught in a similar style as band class. Many students showed a willingness to take such a course, although they did not have the opportunity to do so before.
“The percussion course is very exciting,” says Mr. Rakonjac, a music teacher at MGCI. “I think such a course is fitting for students’ interests as shown by a 2013 poll taken by Music Council, and it will certainly brighten our school.” The course will primarily feature fast tempo and intensive pieces that demand skill and energy. New marching band percussion equipment set for twenty students costs at least $25,000 at roughly $1000 per drum. It is also possible to run a percussion course without drum-line equipment as a major part of percussion is the snare drum.
With MGCI’s diverse music courses, which include band, vocals, guitar, and now percussion, there is one type of musical instrument missing – strings. With many students coming from middle schools that have both band and strings classes, students’ development in strings is often dropped once they enter MGCI. “The problems with a strings program are that we don’t have enough space for storage of the instruments, and there are the high costs of buying and maintaining the instruments,” says Mr. Rakonjac. The price for string instruments ranges from $500 to $1700 each, while the cost for percussion equipment ranges from $400 to $1000 each, depending on what instruments are used. Yamaha Canada did a short workshop with Grade 9 Band students in November 2013, instructed by drummer Micheal Beauclerc.
When asked why school funds are going to a percussion program instead of a strings program, Mr. Rakonjac said: “We did a survey last year and the interest in a strings program from the students was relatively minimal and the interest for a percussion course was relatively high. A percussion course can be easily blended with a band course and there’s room for possible growth.” One reason why Garneau students do not show great interest for a strings program may be that they were not given the opportunity to be exposed to a strings program in earlier years.
The possibility of a new strings course in MGCI is very slim if anything; however, students with experience can join the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra. As of now, the focus at Garneau is on maintaining the three existing courses and introducing a new percussion course for the 2014-2015 school year.