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Cant stop the music: Osoyoos high school band plays on after budget cuts

Justine Wright, Rheanne Harfman and Emma Mandziuk practice at a an ealry Wednesday morning session.
December 02, 2015 - 8:00 PM

OSOYOOS - When budget cuts led to the cancellation of band class, a small group of determined Osoyoos band students and their volunteer band teacher decided to create their own musical education.

Music teacher Anne Murseli has known most of the eight band members since elementary school and when budget cuts cancelled the music class the retired teacher stepped in to lead the group as a volunteer. She sees the band as a club where she provides the basic direction for the band, but lets the members take ownership for its destiny as well.

The Osoyoos Secondary School band had been under pressure due to dwindling numbers and budget constraints for some time, Murseli says.

“For a long time it was affiliated with the school but it was outside the school curriculum. The numbers got less and less, and last June, end of last school term, the principal decided to cancel the high school band altogether,” she says.

The girls who were part of the band at the time decided to form their own band club. They were allowed to use school premises to practice, as well as school instruments, but they would no longer receive funding from the school.

“I am not a high school teacher, I was an elementary school teacher and because they ran out of (teachers on call) who could do the job, I was asked if I would take it on. There were only six students and they were kids I’d taught in elementary school so I said I’d do it until last June. Then we found out they’d cancelled the music class entirely because of insufficient numbers,” Murseli says. "The girls were disappointed they no longer had an outlet for something they would like to do and had practiced hard at for several years. Most of them had instruments that had been purchased. It just seemed like such a shame. And I had been working in this district for 41 years already, so as June whittled down, I made the decision to retire. So I said to the girls, 'if I retire this year, I will continue working with you in band as a volunteer'.” 

Since then, two girls who have moved up from elementary school joined the club.

“The girls decided they would like to do something at the end of the year to show what you could do if you continued with music, so they decided they would like to go to Vancouver to see a proper musical production. If you’re going to do that, you’re going to have to raise some money, which we began to do over the summer,” she says. “In the long run, we hope to generate enough funds to go to Vancouver in the spring. In the meantime, they enjoy playing."

Alex Brunner, Jasdeep Sandhu, Kelsey Bayda and Olivia Osland practice for a series of Christmas concerts in Osoyoos.
Alex Brunner, Jasdeep Sandhu, Kelsey Bayda and Olivia Osland practice for a series of Christmas concerts in Osoyoos.

The students have been taking band for between one and four years and their dedication is obvious — how many high school students would be willing to get up early in order to take a 7:30 a.m. course outside the school’s curriculum?

“They’re working hard. I came from a similar background as many of these girls, I wasn’t very athletic in school, and I went on to become a music specialist in the school. That’s kind of why I wanted for them to have the opportunity, if they were willing to work as hard at it as they are — that’s why I’m there,” she says. "It’s for them. They’re not necessarily athletic kids, their strength is fine arts."

The students passion for music shows, and many play other instruments as well, including guitar, tenor sax and piano. 

“We’re passionate about music and we believe the school needs a fine arts program. Even though we’ve been cancelled, we all agree we need to put in the extra mile in order to continue music at Osoyoos Secondary School,” band member Jasdeep Sandhu says.

Murseli accompanies the students on piano from time to time, as the selection requires. She also uses the piano to demonstrate rhythms.

The students have a series of Christmas performances coming up in Osoyoos, including:

- Cactus Ridge, Dec. 4 at 3:15 p.m
- Osoyoos Christmas Light Up, Dec. 4 evening
- Mariposa Retirement Centre, Dec. 15 at 3:15 p.m.
- Cactus Ridge, Dec. 18 at 3:15 p.m.
- Osoyoos High School variety show, Dec. 18.



The girls' band at Osoyoos Secondary School prepares for the upcoming holiday season.

Posted by InfoNews Penticton on Thursday, December 3, 2015

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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