PVA Strings

The Centre for Performing and Visual Arts at Central Memorial High School
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Strings Program Overview

The PVA Strings Program is a place for violinists, violists, cellists, and bassists with novice to advanced skills to grow as musicians. We are proud to be one of the only credited high school string programs within the CBE. Students in PVA Strings will explore many styles of music, and make meaningful connections between technique and artistry through performing and studying with renowned artists in their discipline. The PVA String Orchestra and Central’s Sinfonietta will perform locally, regionally, and when possible, internationally throughout the school year. Our Beginner Strings program is open to all students in the school, and runs after class to make it accessible to everyone. All string ensembles are full-year, five-credit courses.

PVA String Orchestra
In PVA Strings, students will find a safe and engaged community where they will be encouraged to become their best musical selves. 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 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 are supported with private lessons, or are involved in groups like Junior Strings, Calgary Youth Orchestra, Calgary Fiddlers or other performing ensembles in the city. 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 musicians that come in bi-weekly to work with each section of the orchestra. Our guest artists are phenomenal and influential musicians in Calgary, and are 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 both nationally and internationally.

PVA Musicianship
PVA Musicianship is where students learn to be artists – exploring reading, writing, and expressing themselves through music to a variety of audiences. This class is only available at Central Memorial PVA – where our students provide the spark, and our department helps them to access a vast network of artists and mentors locally and from across the continent that can help them to reach their dreams. 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.

Central Sinfoneitta
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. Central Sinfoneitta 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 strings all musicians a unique opportunity to play in a full orchestra setting. String players who are not enrolled in PVA Strings may join Central Sinfionetta with permission from Ms. Archer.

Beginner Strings
Beginner Strings is a non-PVA course that is open to the entire student population, offering beginner and novice players the chance to learn a string instrument and play in a string orchestra. 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 performs 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.

Auditions for Strings – Violin, Viola, Cello, String Bass

PVA Music auditions will comprise of three components: a prepared solo, technique, and an interview. 

This is an opportunity for our music team to hear where the student is in their musical journey, get a sense of their coachability (are they willing to take risks, open to feedback, etc.), and assess which ensemble would provide the student with the most opportunity for success.  

More importantly, this is an opportunity for the student to share their gifts and passion with us in a friendly, safe, and encouraging environment. 

Piano, guitar, bagpipes, etc.: while we would love to accommodate all instruments, it is not possible within our program.  If you are interested in PVA Music, we would be happy to discuss options in order for students to participate. 

  1. Prepared Solos: students will demonstrate their ability to prepare and perform a piece of music that showcases their gifts and passions.

Please prepare a short solo (30 seconds to 1 minute, if your solo is longer choose a short section of it) that highlights your own personality as a musician. It could be a part of your band/orchestra music, or a solo specifically for your instrument. If you would like, you may prepare and use “Rhythm Etude #9” as your solo. For strings, the Suzuki books are an easily accessible and great place to find a piece at an appropriate level for you. 

  1. Technique: students will demonstrate their understanding of musical skills and concepts.

Scales:choose one from G, D or C major; choose one from E or B Minor (natural, harmonic or melodic, your choice). Scales should be 2 octaves minimum, 3 octaves if possible.  

Sight-reading:  Read a simple 8 bar melody from sightreadingfactory.com 

Ear Training: Recognize unison notes as sharp, flat, or in tune (practice with the “Tunerval” app on apple or android devices) 

  1. Interview (parents/guardians included):

This is an opportunity for us to learn more about the student and family.  We will ask you questions about why the student is passionate about music, what their goals are, and why they want to be a part of the PVA program, as well as who they are as a person.  We will provide information about student and parent involvement in PVA and some of the expectations associated with participation in the program. We will also answer any questions you might have. 


Strings Events

There are no upcoming events at this time.

How to Apply

All the information you need on one handy page.

PVA Application Form

Direct link to form

Our Teachers

staff-Massey, Greg

Greg Massey

Gregory Massey


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.

staff-Mailman, Adam

Katrina Archer

Adam Mailman

Band and Choir

Adam creates great leaders through music. He helps students of all ages around Alberta as a guest conductor, adjudicator, and clinician to understand how they best can contribute to their ensemble. He performs regularly as percussionist with Primetime Big Band, and Alberta Winds, and as Music Director of Cochrane Music Society’s Adult Concert and Jazz Bands. Adam holds a Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Education from the University of Calgary, and a Master’s of Curriculum design in Music Education from Acadia University.

staff-Archer, Katrina

Katrina Archer

Katrina Archer

Band, Choir and Strings

Katrina believes firmly in the power of musical study to positively transform individuals, communities, and society. She works to empower students by building safe communities where students are able to engage fully in their art. At Central Memorial, Ms. Archer directs the String Orchestra program, co-conducts the Symphonic Band, and teaches advanced instrumental and choral musicianship classes. As a musician, Ms. Archer played as a sectional cellist with the Symphony of the Kootenays, as well as currently performing with several local bands and ensembles in Calgary. She serves on the boards for the Calgary Association for the Development of Music Education, and Calgary’s Land’s End Ensemble. Ms. Archer has been 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. Katrina Archer grew up in Calgary as part of a musical family. As a child, she studied voice with renowned voice teacher and Canadian composer Roberta Stephen, and enjoyed dancing at her dad’s big band concerts and listening to her mom teach piano. Katrina went on to study saxophone and cello at the University of Calgary with saxophonist Jeremy Brown, and cellists Olena Kilchyk and Beth Root-Sandvoss. She holds a Bachelor of Music Education specializing in Secondary Education from U of C, and a Bachelor of Education from St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. 

Strings FAQ

Strings Program FAQ

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 Leadership in the Arts 35 or Entrepreneurial Art?

All PVA students are required to complete either Leadership in the Arts 35 or Entrepreneurial Artist (Junior Achievement).  These self-directed courses provide a combination of teacher-directed assignments/activities combined with student-directed and/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. These courses are not scheduled into the timetable, but updates and teacher led content will occur during musicianship classes and at designated times.

Q:  Are all instrumental students considered PVA students?


Links for music students

2019 Music Parent Orientation

Click here to download in pdf format.

Music Parents' Association (CMMPA)

All parents of music students have automatic membership.
Visit our website for all the details.

“After hearing tonight’s performance by these musicians, three words come to mind: talent, dedication, and maturity.”

testimonialsWallace Galbraith
Director of the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra, Ayr, Scotland

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.” 

testimonialsAdam Tran
2007 grad


5111 - 21st Street SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T3E 1R9
Phone: 403-243-8880
Fax: 403-777-7059

What Happens After My Audition/Interview?

Emails are sent to all candidates after your audition/inteview to inform students as to whether they have been placed in PVA Intro or PVA.   Acceptance emails will outline the registration process.

If you do not receive an email two weeks after your audition,  please direct inquiries to our main office secretary at (403) 243-8880 ext. 2311.

For Applications submitted AFTER our first round of auditions, emails will be sent out following your interview/audition and you will be called to set up a registration appointment. Late registration makes timetabling and course selection more difficult. We strongly encourage candidates to submit paperwork before the January deadline outlined above.


PVA Events

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