Students joining ensemble on stage

Music: Altius Brass invites high school band students to perform Christmas concert

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 08:23 am

Kristen Stearn, a member of Altius Brass and music teacher at Red Deer Lake School, will perform with both during a concert at the RPAC on Dec. 13 at 7 p.m.
Kristen Stearn, a member of Altius Brass and music teacher at Red Deer Lake School, will perform with both during a concert at the RPAC on Dec. 13 at 7 p.m.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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A foothills music teacher won’t be conducting high school band students in this weekend’s Christmas concert, she’ll be sitting alongside them.

Calgary musical ensemble Altius Brass, of which DeWinton resident Kristin Stearn is a member, will be joined by about a dozen music students from the Christ the Redeemer and Foothills School Divisions in a one-of-a-kind performance at the Rotary Performing Arts Centre on Dec. 13 at 7 p.m.

Stearn, who plays the French horn with the 18-member brass ensemble and is a band instructor at the Red Deer Lake School, said directors from high schools across the foothills were asked to select students they thought would be capable of performing with the ensemble.

“We are trying to reach out to some of the younger students,” she said. “We have such a strong connection with really strong music programs in the foothills.”

She said it’s a great mentoring opportunity for the students, as well as a chance for music students to learn what it’s like to perform as part of a professional ensemble.

Stearn said the students were given their music ahead of time to perfect before rehearsing with Altius Brass this week.

“They’ve never even had a rehearsal with us yet,” she said. “They don’t really know what to expect yet, but they’re willing to come out and try. Like real professionals do they are going to practice their music really hard before.”

Foothills Composite School Grade 10 student Sara Hillyer was among those selected to perform.

“It’s just kind of nerve- wracking,” she said. “You don’t want to make any mistakes.”

Despite initial nerves, Hillyer said she is eager to have the opportunity to perform with an ensemble of Altius Brass’ caliber.

“I felt that it would be a fun experience to play with a more advanced band,” she said. “It gives me the experience of playing in a bigger band for more people than just parents or friends.

“It kind of gives us a taste of what it’s really like after high school.”

Stearn said the music instructors have faith the selected students will shine at the Christmas concert this weekend.

“We know they can handle it,” she said. “That can happen in real life – less rehearsing together, more coming prepared and ready to go.”

Even more exciting for Stearn is the fact she’ll be performing in her own backyard. She said the ensemble’s performances always take place at various venues in Calgary and this is the first time they’ve branched out beyond the city.

“We are just starting to expand our audience a little bit,” she said. “We are really excited to try out the Rotary Performing Arts Centre. We think it will be a perfect venue.”

Stearn said the ensemble performs a varied repertoire of music and consists of professional brass and percussion performers with a range of backgrounds including orchestra performers, freelance performers and school band instructors.

She added that Altius Brass has a large selection to choose from so the concerts are different from year to year.

“There’s a lot of music in our folder, a lot of music to practice and put together,” she said. “There is lots of stuff out there to choose from. It’s just picking and choosing what we want to do.”

The music is written specifically for brass instruments, Stearn said.

“It’s a specific type of music that isn’t regularly played in a band because a band has woodwinds and strings,” he said. “There’s a distinct sound that goes with it.”

Stearn said that distinct sound is perfect for the Christmas season.

“It’s a lot of recognizable tunes with a lot of different twists,” she said. “Just a lot of the tunes that you would normally hear at Christmas but that are composed for a brass ensemble.”

Stearn said this is one of her favourite times of the year to perform.

“It always puts me in the Christmas spirit,” she said. “I find it’s really festive.”

Tickets to see Altius Brass perform cost $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Tickets can be purchased in advance at 403-938-3204 or online at


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