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Canadian Music Class Challenge: 2017 winners revealed

Grant Lawrence


December 15, 2017


This is it! From the thousands of music students who took part learning 17 Canadian songs in every style imaginable, from the nearly 500 submissions from every province and territory in Canada, our judges have finally made their decisions in the first four categories of the 2017 Canadian Music Class Challenge.

On behalf of everyone at CBC Music and MusiCounts, congratulations to our winners, and a heartfelt thank you to all the teachers and students who took part in this year's challenge. It was a fantastic showcase of talent, and a great salute to music education in this country.

Check out the winners in categories 1 to 6 below, which were announced today on CBC Radio 2 Morning with Raina Douris. The winners of categories 5 and 6 will be announced live on q with Tom Power on CBC Radio 1 at 11:00 a.m. local time ( 12 p.m. NT).

Category 6: High School Vocal

Winner: Holy Heart High School, St. John's, Newfoundland with "Both Sides Now"

Holy Heart Bella Cantante is one of four choirs at Holy Heart High School. Besides their incredible, pitch-perfect performance of this Joni Mitchell classic, teacher Robert Colbourne says what makes this group so special is the friendship and harmony that exists between the members both in and out of the choir room. In March 2018, this ensemble will travel to Dublin, Ireland on a performance tour with the Dublin Youth Choir and Artane School of Music. This arrangement of Both Sides Now was arranged by all members and led by alto Sarah Drover.

Judge's comment from Ewan Currie, the Sheepdogs: "Wonderfully clear and precise harmony singing that really soars. Bonus points for not needing any musical accompaniment and not taking the song too slowly."

Check out this video of the members finding out they won!

Category 5: High School Instrumental

Winner: St. Bonaventure’s College, St. John's, Newfoundland with CBC Olympic Games Theme

What are the chances both senior high school categories would be won by schools in St. John's? St. Bonaventure’s College is a Catholic School located in the historic centre of St. John’s. The Instrumental Music Program at the school is an integral part of the school’s curriculum and culture. The most unique facet of this incredible wind ensemble, under the direction of Vincenza Etchegary, is that it spans eight grade levels, as the fifty students in this orchestra are in grades 5 to 12. This allows senior students to mentor its younger members.

Judge's comment from Ming-Jeong Koh, concert violinist and music educator: “St. Bonaventure really stood out to me because of their impeccable ensemble and refinement of sound. Also, there was an incredible range of colours in this arrangement. Bravo!”

Category 4: Junior High Vocal

Winner: Sir William Osler, Hamilton, Ont. with “Treat You Better.”

Sir William Osler Glee Club started in September and is now up to 70 members in grades 7 and 8. This clearly spirited group already had an opportunity to perform “Treat You Better” at their school's #choosekindness assembly, and plan to bring their singing energy around the city of Hamilton to spread holiday cheer while caroling. According to teacher Pam Kortmann, "the Canadian Music Challenge has inspired Sir William Osler to include more Canadian music in the ciriculum!"

Judge's comment, from IsKwé: "This was the video that actually made me cry instantly as the chorus kicked in and everyone started singing all together. You did a fantastic job creating emotion in your blended vocals! The harmonies were delicious and your performance was fun to watch. I loved it!"

Category 3: Junior High Instrumental

Winner: École Arbutus Global Middle School, Saanich, B.C. with CBC Olympic Games Theme.

The Arbutus Mixtape Orchestra is a collection of Grade 7 and 8 students who deliver this extremely stirring and joyful rendition of the CBC Olympic Games Theme. Notable in their video is the incorporation of Salish First Nations drums, which Ecole Arbutus Global Middle School now teaches in a program. In this video, student-made drums are played, which, according to teachers Michael Mazza and Jennifer Hill, is a "representation of the diversity of our school and our country."

Judge's comment, from Tempo host Julie Nesrallah: “I just loved the performance because it had so many fun and interesting things going on: singing, drumming, the funky guitar solo, clapping and the 'heys' all came together to provide a dynamic, multi-layered performance that was very entertaining and moving. The whole performance was delightful to listen to."

Category 2: Elementary Vocal

Winner: Beechwood Elementary, Pierrefonds, Que. with a “Lost Boy" and "Treat You Better” mash-up.

Mind blown! Teacher Paul Hanash and the grades 5 and 6 students from Beechwood Elementary have very enthusiastically and skillfully mashed up our two most popular songs this year. According to Hanash, "in keeping with students from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds coming together in one classroom, we decided to bring together two songs in one medley. We hope you enjoy watching and listening to this rendition as much as the students enjoyed singing and performing it." We did! Great job.

Judge's comment from the team at MusiCounts: “Loved the arrangement! Good flow back and forth between the two songs, and also very technically strong.”

Category 1: Elementary Instrumental

Winner: Campus View Elementary, Victoria, B.C. (CBC Olympic Games Theme)

Repeat winners alert! Campus View Elementary won this category last year with their great version of "Stitches," and now they've done it again with a very colourful version of our Olympic theme song! The Campus View Elementary Instrumental Ensemble is made up of students in grades 4 and 5 who took on this very challenging composition with the courage and confidence of an Olympian. According to teacher Jody Onuma, "these students always have a lot of fun rehearsing and performing together. They are very excited to share their version of the CBC Olympic theme, which they have really enjoyed learning!" Welcome back to the Canadian Music Class Challenge victory podium!

Judge's comment, from CBC Music Class producer Kelly Kitagawa: “This is a complex arrangement and we feel the students really nailed the performance. It’s clear these kids are multi-talented and dedicated!”

Each winning class receives a state-of-the-art classroom recording kit valued at over $5,000. For the winning classes that chose the CBC Olympic Games Theme, each class will have their version showcased on CBC-TV during our Winter Olympics broadcast in February 2018. Other classes that performed the CBC Olympic Games Theme may also be included, and will be announced at a later date.

More to explore:

Check out the top 60 finalists for the Canadian Music Class Challenge 2017

Check all the videos submitted for this year's Canadian Music Class Challenge

Meet the judges for the 2017 Canadian Music Class Challenge

Watch Ruth B return to her high school to perform "Lost Boy"