Strings Program Overview
The PVA Strings Program is a place for violinists, violists, cellists, and bassists from novice to advanced to grow as musicians. We are proud to be one of the only credited high school string programs within the CBE. With opportunities for workshops, clinics, tours, and collaboration with choir and band, the string program at Central Memorial provides a program rich with performance and learning opportunities. Our program includes a String Orchestra, Full Orchestra, and musicianship class. In addition, a Beginner Strings ensemble is offered for students to bridge their skills into PVA. The Strings Program runs on a conservatory model, where musicians are trained with the diverse skills needed to go on to study music in a post-secondary institution.
PVA String Orchestra – Students in the PVA Strings Program meet every day for 90 minutes to earn credits for Instrumental Music 10/20/30 and Musicianship 10/20/30. We split our time in Instrumental Music between string orchestra repertoire, technique, and performing. It is required that musicians applying for this program have a minimum of one year experience on their instrument. The majority of our musicians have a number of years on their instrument, supported with private lessons, or being involved in groups like Junior Strings, Calgary Youth Orchestra, Calgary Fiddlers or other performing ensembles in the city. Our ensemble emphasizes positive mentorship, and less experienced players will find that the challenge of our repertoire will be supported by more experienced musicians as they work to match the level of our orchestra. Students in this ensemble are highly encouraged to study privately with local teachers. Good quality instrument rentals are available to students through the Calgary Board of Education for an annual fee.
The PVA String Orchestra plays repertoire from all eras and styles of western music. Musicians of all abilities are challenged by our repertoire to grow technically and musically. All students in PVA Strings benefit from professional clinicians that come in bi-weekly to work with each section of the orchestra. Our clinicians are professional musicians and enthusiastic teachers that are an important part of our program. The String Orchestra also enjoys bringing in guest conductors, taking part in festivals and workshops, and hosting and participating in concerts and tours.
PVA Musicianship – Students in the PVA Strings Program meet every day for 90 minutes to earn credits for Instrumental Music 10/20/30 and Musicianship 10/20/30. Our Musicianship course is something unique to PVA, and focusses on chamber ensemble work, sight-reading, theory knowledge, ear training, and musicality. We follow the RCM theory levels, and students are encouraged to register for RCM theory exams at the end of each school year. Students graduating from PVA Strings will have the theoretical knowledge to make an easy transition to university level music theory courses.
Chamber Orchestra – In addition to our PVA String Orchestra, PVA string players are enrolled as part of our Chamber Orchestra, where they earn credits for Strings 15/25/35. Chamber Orchestra combines strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion after school once a week to play full orchestra music. We explore all genres from baroque and classical selections to contemporary movie scores. This ensemble provides a valuable opportunity for woodwind, brass and percussionists to develop more independence in their playing and to expand their exposure to different repertoire, while providing string players a unique opportunity to play in a full orchestra setting. String players who are not enrolled in PVA Strings may join Chamber Orchestra with permission from Ms. Archer.
Beginner Strings – Beginner Strings is a non-PVA course that offers beginner and novice players the chance to learn a string instrument and play in a string orchestra. This course is open to the entire student population of all grades and backgrounds. We meet twice a week after school to earn credits for Instrumental Music 10. This course starts out with the basics, and no previous musical experience is necessary to join. Students are able to choose between violin, viola, cello and bass, and rentals are available from the school for an annual fee. Beginner Strings benefits from bi-weekly clinicians and the support of the Music Parents Association. We perform in music department concerts throughout the year. After completing this course, Students from Beginner Strings may audition to bridge into the PVA Strings Program.
Leadership in the Arts 35 / Entrepreneurial Artist (Junior Achievement)
All PVA students are enrolled in one of two courses; Leadership in the Arts 35 or Entrepreneurial Artist (Junior Achievement). These programs of study allow PVA students to explore how they see themselves as artists and become more aware of the process involved in preparing for the marketing and business aspect of being a professional in the arts community.
Students will experience a variety of teacher-led assignments/activities as well as a number of student-directed online projects.
Audition/Interview Requirements for Strings
Incoming students of all abilities interested in being a part of the PVA Strings program must book an audition time. If you have no experience on a string instrument, this time will be used to discuss the program and options for starting string instrument study.
Please bring your instrument to your audition. Be prepared to play two different scales (however you normally practice them) and a short piece (maximum of 3 minutes). There will be a short sight reading example for you to look at, talk about, and play through.
Following your audition, there will be time to discuss your musical background, reasons for applying to the PVA program, and commitment to the discipline. Details about our program will also be provided. This interview process will give you an opportunity to ask questions and learn about our program, in order to determine if we are a good fit for you!
A parent or caregiver should be present at your interview.
Click on the links below for detailed information on the application/registration process.
PVA auditions are friendly and supportive. This may be your first audition ever, and we want everyone to have a positive and fun experience.
Band and Strings Instructor
Katrina Archer has been involved with music in Calgary from a young age. She studied saxophone and cello at the University of Calgary, earning a Bachelor of Music Education specializing in Secondary Education in 2009. She holds a Bachelor of Education from St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. As a musician, Ms. Archer has performed as a sectional cellist with the Symphony of the Kootenays, as well as performing with several local bands and ensembles in Calgary. Ms. Archer has become involved in the international El Sistema movement, which exposes at-risk youth to intense musical study on an instrument as a means to create positive social change within a community. To that end, she has been a part of instructing Philadelphia’s “Play On Philly” program, as well as Calgary’s Multicultural Youth Orchestra. She believes firmly in the power of musical study to positively transform individuals, communities, and society. At Central Memorial, Ms. Archer directs the String Orchestra program, co-conducts the Symphonic Band, and teaches advanced instrumental and choral musicianship classes.
Pianist and tenor Gregory Massey is a versatile musician who is trained in musical genres spanning from classical, to jazz, to rock. Gregory’s formal education includes completing a Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus, studies in jazz piano at Grant MacEwan College, and a year of graduate work at the University of Alberta’s main campus. Gregory also received his Grade 10 certificate in piano from the Royal Conservatory of Music.
Gregory is a skilled accompanist who works with singers and instrumentalists of all ages and abilities. The ability to perform in a variety of styles has opened many doors for Gregory, including being the lead pianist and keytar player in several Alberta based rock bands and being the Assistant Music Director at Living Spirit United Church. Gregory is currently living in Calgary, Alberta where he is an active teacher, director and accompanist.
Music Leader, Mike Gardner, on the music program:
Music Program Introduction
Q: Are PVA music students required to take private lessons?
It is strongly recommended that PVA music students study privately with a professional instructor. This experience will facilitate strong foundational skills necessary in developing independence and confidence.
Q: What time commitment is required to be a PVA music student?
Music students typically attend 1 – 3 morning or after school rehearsals per week. In addition, Jazz Ensembles and Vocal Jazz meet either before or after school two or three times per week and those programs are by audition only. Music students perform at several concerts and events and tour each year. Tours take place in the province, within Canada, or internationally.
Q: When do PVA music students take Professional Development in the Arts 35?
All PVA Band students who choose to enroll in Musicianship will be expected to participate in Professional Development in the Arts 35. This self-directed course is a combination of teacher-directed assignments and activities combined with student-directed or on-line projects. Students will interview professional musicians, attend workshops and performances, develop a list of performance repertoire, study privately, develop a personal portfolio, and complete a final exit interview. This course is not scheduled into the timetable, but updates and teacher content will occur during musicianship classes and at designated appointment times.
Q: Are all instrumental students considered PVA students?
Links for music students
The music program at central was more than a class, it was a second home...
The staff were so welcoming and warm that students are able to have a close and long lasting relationship with them. Students spend a lot more time together than in other classes (especially on tour) and because music is very team orientated, strong friendships are quickly established. It is one of the only subjects where you spend three years growing up with the same teachers and students. After a full day of analysing texts and memorizing data sheets, it was a relief that I could go to the music room and do something I was very passionate about. More importantly however, do all of this with people that made me feel content and completely at home with.”