PVA Strings


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Strings Program Overview

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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 with Central’s string specialist, where they learn and reinforce advancing string specific techniques and musical development. This class includes all auditioned string students in Grades 10-12. PVA String students will find an environment of positive mentorship with like-minded and dedicated musicians. The PVA String class is timetabled at the same time as PVA vocal and PVA band classes to provide unique opportunities for students to collaborate on solo and chamber music performance, develop musical fluency literacy and creativity, 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 scheduled private 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.

PVA Intro is perfect for general students looking to acquire the skills and attitudes they will need to find success in our performing ensembles throughout their high school career, as well as the skills necessary to bridge into the PVA music program. This is the place for our non-auditioned students, as well as students that are hoping to successfully audition into the PVA program. Timetabled in the first semester each school year, PVA Intro will give students the opportunities and instruction to grow as musicians, and to experience a little of what makes music at Central Memorial unique and exciting. It requires at least one year of experience on a chosen instrument or voice, and is team-taught by all three of our music specialists. Please note that students with NO prior strings experience should complete the Beginner Strings class before registering for this course.

String Ensembles

PVA String Students will be automatically enrolled in Orchestra. 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.


In Orchestra, students will find a welcoming community of experienced string players where they will engage in large ensemble music making and experience public performances, festivals, and tours. String players will apply techniques learned in our PVA and PVA Intro classes to explore the rich world of orchestral music. Orchestra meets outside the timetable two times a week, and expands to include players from the band program for full orchestral instrumentation at times throughout the school year.

Members of the Orchestra must have at least one year of experience on their instrument, and should be registered in the PVA or PVA intro classes. Students not fulfilling these requirements are encouraged to be studying privately in order to acquire the necessary techniques and skills needed for our ensemble’s success, and require 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 go on to register for our foundational PVA Intro course and participate in Orchestra.

Strings Events

Ticket purchasing information to these events will be available one month prior to the event start date

Music Parents' Association (CMMPA)

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

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Our Teachers

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. Mailman has recently been inducted into Phi Beta Mu, the North American Bandmasters Fraternity, for his work in community leadership, commissioning of new music, creative pedagogy, and support of other music teachers. He is a member of the selection committee for the Canadian Band Association’s Howard Cable Memorial Prize in Composition, and has commissioned new works for band, choir, and jazz every year since 2015. Mailman performs regularly as percussionist with Primetime Big Band, Alberta Winds, and as Music Director of Cochrane Music Society’s Adult Concert and Jazz Bands. Mailman 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/Choral 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 co-founded 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 in the community and has performed as The Queen in The Queen, The Bear, and The Bumblebee at the Banff Center as well as the Bella Concert Hall, in the Mountain View International Chamber Music Festival, in the Recital Series at the Lougheed House and performed at venues around the city such as 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 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 trio. She has performed internationally at the Kurt Weill Festival in Germany, local performances in 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. Her approach has been shaped by 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. As a musician, Ms. Archer performed as a professional orchestral cellist in British Columbia before moving back to her hometown of Calgary to teach music in schools. At Central Memorial, Ms. Archer directs the Orchestra and Beginner Strings programs, and co-teaches the PVA music classes. She serves on the board for the Calgary Association for the Development of Music Education, and is the Educational Advisor to the board for Chamber Fest West. Katrina holds a Bachelor of Music Education specializing in Secondary Education from The University of Calgary, 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. Students will have a short series of private lessons each semester as part of their course-work in both PVA Band and PVA Intro, and it is encouraged to continue those lessons beyond the time provided to further develop your strengths..

Q:  What time commitment is required to be a PVA music student?

Music students typically attend one to three 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 Music 30 students are required to complete Leadership in the Arts 35 in order to receive their Fine Arts PVA Certificate. This course is delivered in conjunction with PVA classes throughout your high school career, so that you have a full portfolio of work to prepare you for a life rich with music beyond high school, whether you choose to pursue music at post-secondary or not. 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 throughout the courses.

Q:  Are all instrumental students considered PVA students?

Yes! PVA Intro courses and PVA Band, Voice, and Strings are all part of the PVA umbrella, as are all of our large ensembles. These are great opportunities to explore your art form.  All students benefit from the opportunities provided at Central, they just get to choose how many experiences they want to work for!

“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