PVA Strings


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Strings Program Overview

The PVA Strings Program is a place for violinists, violists, cellists, and bassists to grow as musicians and explore the rich world of string music. Central Memorial is proud to host one of the only credited high school strings programs within the CBE. At Central, students have an opportunity to participate in the strings program as a PVA music student, or as a general student.

The PVA Music Program is where students learn to be artists, exploring musical literacy and expression through unique programming that is not found elsewhere in the city. The program focuses on the development of the individual musician, providing our students with the abilities, confidence, and opportunities to go wherever their musical journey takes them, for life.

PVA String students have daily classes in collaboration with the band and vocal programs to explore solo and chamber repertoire, develop musical fluency and individual instrument technique, and dive deep into their personal musical development.

PVA music students make meaningful connections with the musical community through interactions with real artists in their discipline. Students experience exciting residencies, guest artist visits, and regularly scheduled group lessons on their instrument. PVA students will enjoy the benefits of partnerships with Mount Royal Conservatory, The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Calgary Opera, and other professional musical organizations in Calgary and beyond.

The Music Program starts with Music1. Music1 is our first semester foundational class where first year auditioned and general music students will combine to learn the important skills and foundations needed to be successful in music at Central Memorial. This course will allow students to experience what makes Central’s music program so engaging, with access to all of the opportunities that make PVA Music unique. After successful completion of Music1, students can continue their musical journey at Central as PVA Music students with daily timetabled classes, or use the skills they have gained to participate in a select number of our extracurricular ensembles. Please note that students with NO prior strings experience should complete Beginner Strings before registering for this course.

String Ensembles

Each Student in PVA Strings will take part in one of the following ensembles. Check out the Vocal and the Band pages for additional ensembles that students are able to join as secondary ensembles. All ensembles run outside the timetable as five-credit classes.

PVA Orchestra

In PVA Orchestra, string students will find a safe and welcoming community where they will be encouraged to engage and become their best musical selves. Students will explore the rich world of orchestral music while applying the skills they have gathered in their timetabled PVA music class to large ensemble performances.

PVA Orchestra includes string players from Grade 10-12. The PVA Orchestra also expands to include players from the PVAWE (PVA Wind Ensemble) for full orchestral instrumentation at times throughout the school year. The PVA Orchestra performs locally, regionally, and when possible, internationally. Students in this ensemble must be PVA music students, or have teacher permission to join.

Beginner Strings

Our Beginner Strings program is open to all students at Central, and runs outside our regular time table to make it accessible to everyone. This class will take students from having no experience with strings to learning proper instrument technique, essential musical literacy, and how to perform with others.

This course is a full-year, five-credit course. Instruments are provided for the standard CBE rental fee of $100 for the school year. Students who successfully complete this course can then register for our foundational Music1 course and potentially become members of our PVA Music program and/or participate in PVA Orchestra.

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. PVA Music weaves the Leadership in the Arts curriculum (LitA) into our program during all three years of study. Through LitA experiences, students will learn not only how to act as professional musicians, but how to develop a desire to be lifelong participants in the musical fabric of our community. Students will be able to tailor their experience in LitA to their interests, from planning musical events, participating in festivals, or making promotional videos and social media content, to sitting on boards, participating in committees and writing grants.

Strings Events

There are no upcoming events at this time.

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Audition/Interview Requirements – Strings

Violin, Viola, Cello, String Bass

To audition for PVA Strings, students are required to have previously submitted all components of the PVA application process.  Please see Apply Online for further information.

This year due to Covid 19 restrictions,  PVA Strings auditions will be held virtually.

The audition provides 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.

Special note for piano, guitar, bagpipes, accordion etc.: while we would love to accommodate all instruments, it is not possible within our program at this time. If players of these instruments are interested in participating in PVA Music, please have a discussion with our staff about potentially related instruments that could be studied as part of our program.

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

Your string audition checklist:

Prepared Solo: 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 current orchestra music, or a solo specifically for your instrument. For strings, the Suzuki books or the RCM repertoire books are both an easily accessible place to find a piece at an appropriate level for you.

  • Technique: students will demonstrate their understanding of musical skills and concepts.
  • Scales: choose one major AND one minor scale (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
  • 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.

Our Teachers

staff-Massey, Greg

Greg Massey

Gregory Massey

Collaborative Pianist

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 Director

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-Hillestad, Amanda

Michelle Crimmins

Amanda Hillestad

Vocal Director

Amanda is an advocate for strong community leadership through the power and impact of music. She is a Calgary native and graduate of the first graduating year of the CMHS PVA Vocal program. Amanda has taught in the Calgary area for the past 9 years as a studio teacher and classroom teacher specializing in voice, choral music, instrumental music, and theory. She is a founder of the Sherwood School Musical Theatre program as well as the GSA club at Sherwood School. She graduated from McGill University’s Classical Vocal Performance program as well as the University of Calgary’s Education program. She is an active performer and has performed as The Queen in The Queen, The Bear, and The Bumblebee at the Banff Center and at the Bella Concert Hall, in the Mountain View Chamber Music Festival, in the Recital Series at the Lougheed House and completed a recital at the King Eddy. She has been seen in excerpts and roles with McGill Opera in Montreal, has participated in Opera Nuova in Edmonton and returned to work for Opera Nuova on tour as Mrs. Henceforth and Telerina in Isaiah Bell’s Mr. Moreover’s Magic. Amanda has also performed locally with the Calgary Arts Orchestra, VoiceScapes, Classical Revolution Calgary, the Bach Society, Cowtown Opera, Early Music Voices, and Prairie Peaks contemporary ensemble. She has performed internationally at the Kurt Weill Festival in Berlin and Dessau, local performances in Yantai, China, and with Tibet World in Macleod Ganj, India. Amanda is incredibly passionate about the unique artist in all her students and is beyond excited to be a part of the PVA team.

staff-Archer, Katrina

Katrina Archer

Katrina Archer

Strings Director

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 vocal 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