PVA Vocal


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Visual Arts

Vocal Program Overview

The vocal program offers a variety of ensemble and solo experience that focus on the development of singing skills and musicianship through the exploration of quality and diverse repertoire. Each ensemble participates in local, national and international festivals, which in the past have included the Calgary Performing Arts Festival, Alberta Choralfest, Banff Rocky Mountain Festival and the Whistler Con Brio Music Festival. Touring extensively, Central’s choirs have recently visited locations such as England, Scotland, Germany, and the Czech Republic. All ensembles are full-year, five-credit courses.

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 Vocal students have daily classes in collaboration with the band and strings 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.

Concert Choir
In Concert Choir, students develop their aural skills through the study and performance of music from several time periods and styles. This choir is designed to challenge and broaden students’ understanding of choral repertoire and vocal techniques. The ensemble is open to all students grades 10-12 who wish to be part of a musical ensemble, regardless of prior experience.  Expert instruction and a strong sense of community will help all prospective singers become confident members of the Concert Choir by our first performance.

The Concert Choir performs at major musical events throughout the year. This ensemble has consistently received top ratings in local, national and international music festivals.

PVA Chamber Choir
The Chamber Choir is comprised of students who have successfully auditioned into the Performing and Visual Arts Program and want an in-depth musical experience. This group of students rehearses twice a week and performs quality repertoire, challenges students to develop their musicality, and explores various styles and time periods. Students will have the opportunity to work with clinicians through ensemble work and masterclass participation. This choir performs often throughout the year both within the school and the community, with the expectation for national and international travel.

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.

Choral Events

There are no upcoming events at this time.

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Audition/Interview Requirements – Vocal

To audition for PVA Vocal, 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 Vocal auditions will be held virtually.  This will provide 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.

Prepared Solos

Students will demonstrate their ability to prepare and perform a piece of music that showcases their gifts and passions.

Please prepare a piece of music (30 seconds to 1 minute, if your solo is longer choose a short section of it) that demonstrates your range and ability. It should be in the classical or musical theatre genre. A collaborative pianist will be provided, so please bring music for the collaborative pianist (on paper, not a phone). If you are unsure of what to sing, please see the suggested pieces below. We look forward to hearing you!

Suggested pieces (*accompanist will have the music already):

All Voice Types (in your respective key)

  • The Water Is Wide
  • O Danny Boy


  • *‘Till There Was You (Music Man)
  • *Caro Mio Ben by Giordani (key of E flat)


  • *On My Own (Les Miserables)
  • *O cessate di piagarmi by Scarlatti (key of E minor)


  • *Corner of the Sky (Pippin)
  • *Sebben, crudele by Caldara (key of E minor)


  • *Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)
  • *Alma del core by Caldara (key of E major)

Following that piece, if there is a genre of music that you are more comfortable with (pop, country, folk) or passionate about, we would love to hear it. A karaoke track will work for this, and please have it ready. If you have any questions regarding this, please don’t hesitate to ask.


Students will demonstrate their understanding of musical skills and concepts.

Scales: You will be asked to sing a variety of vocal exercises on a neutral vowel, led by the director.

Sight-reading:  Read a simple 8 bar melody from sightreadingfactory.com  You can use solfège or sing on “doo”.

Ear Training:  pitch retention (a melody will be played for you to sing back as best you can).

Interview (parents/guardians included):

This is an opportunity for us to learn more about students and families. We will ask you questions about why your 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.

If you have any questions about the audition requirements, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Ms. Hillestad.

Amanda Hillestad
Music Specialist
BMus McGill University | BEd University of Calgary

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.

Choral FAQ

Vocal 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 who choose to enroll in Musicianship will be expected to participate in Leadership in the Arts 35 or Entrepreneurial Art (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 vocal students considered PVA students?

No. Only those students who have successfully auditioned for the PVA Vocal program are considered to be part of the PVA Program.

Q:  Are choir students allowed to audition for PVA musicals?

Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, PVA Vocal students will be allowed to audition for PVA musicals.

Q:  Are there opportunities for PVA Vocal students to perform solos?

Solos within choir pieces are selected through in-class auditions. In addition to these opportunities, all PVA students perform in a solo recital each spring.

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.

PVA Choral Alumni

Many graduates of the PVA Choral Program have gone on to post-secondary music programs or are currently pursuing professional careers. Alumni include:

Ambrose University

  • Allyson Beaven (Voice)

Berkeley Conservatory

  • Laura Wilson (Vocal Jazz)

Boston Conservatory

  • Alida Doornberg (Voice)

Humber College – Toronto

  • Meg Contini (Vocal Jazz)
  • Shannon MacNaughton (Vocal Jazz)

Liberty University – Lynchburg, VA

  • Meghan Bell (Voice)

Mount Royal University

  • Carley Ann Mitchell (Voice)

Oberlin College

  • Jenna Yorke-Slader (Voice)

Vancouver Island Community College

  • Annie LeBaron (Vocal Jazz)

“PVA gave me the opportunity to do what I love, every day, surrounded by peers and teachers who constantly inspired and challenged me, simultaneously quenching and expanding my need for musical knowledge.”

testimonialsMeg Contini

“Both of our daughters always loved to sing, but had very little musical training.

They began the three year program with undeveloped voices and no real idea of their potential. Mrs. Gardner literally transformed them and opened horizons they had never dreamed of. They became confident soloists, and sang in local and international competitions and events, and traveled with the choirs to Scotland, England, Germany, Prague, Vancouver and Idaho. They were given leadership roles that helped their confidence to blossom. In addition to gaining discipline around the use of their voices, they received extensive training in theory: reading music, ear training, and studying different eras of music. They learned the importance of respecting and contributing positively and formed a core group of friends that stays with them to this day. The benefits of this program are profound – one found her career path, and both discovered talents they would never have explored without the intense experience that was offered. We are so grateful that they were able to be part of this unique program.”

testimonialsDeb McNaughton

“We try not to single out individual ensembles, but I must tell you that in the fifteen years that I have been associated with this festival, this is the finest choir that I have heard.”

testimonialsAlf Scrimgour
Harrogate International Youth Music Festival Director, Harrogate, England

“The PVA choir program allowed me to learn about so may aspects of music and helped bridge my way into a musical college. There is no way I would have gotten to where I am today without the knowledge I received from PVA choir. I miss the support of my teachers and peers and how every person’s differences were considered unique and were cherished. It was such a great place to grow as a musician!!!”

testimonialsShannon McNaughton

I have been involved with music most of my life and have taken many Canadians on tours, but never heard the quality that came out of your program at Tewkesbury Abbey. You are the standard to beat for the Canadian High Schools. Hats off to all of you.”

testimonialsHarry McPherson
McPherson Motor Coaches, United Kingdom

“The PVA Program has allowed our daughter the opportunity to pursue her love of music through the choral program.

She is thrilled to be able to do this during her school day along with like-minded students. This means she is also exposed to many other art forms such as dance, drama, theatre, instrumental music and art. The success of the PVA Program lies in the dedication of the very professional and knowledgeable instructors. The time, effort and focus they bring to each and every program means that students are able to study their area of choice at a deeper level, learning both the artistic and technical aspects. Being able to travel and perform throughout the year further enhances their education. As parents, we are most grateful for a program which focuses on our daughter’s love of music and allows her to progress and enjoy every day. We often think back to our daughter’s first day in the PVA Program : “Guess what? I get to sing for homework!!”

testimonialsBerna Stewart

“My daughter entered the vocal program at Central with many years of choral experience but no solo experience and minimal private instruction.

She was able to turn to Anne Gardner and the other members of the vocal program not only for school music program support and guidance, but also for private vocal coach instructors and summer camps.  As a result of this support and the superior music education she received at Central Memorial, she received early admittance into the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston along with a $10,000 annual scholarship.  We will always be indebted to Anne and the program at Central.”

testimonialsCyndra Townley