PVA Vocal


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Vocal Program Overview

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The PVA 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 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. The PVA Vocal program is a place for students to develop their craft through a wide range of repertoire while exploring who they are as a musician and collaborator. 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 timetabled classes with Ms. Hillestad where they focus on advancing vocal techniques and musical development. This class includes all auditioned vocal students in Grades 10-12. PVA Vocal students are welcomed into a space of positive mentorship with like-minded and dedicated musicians who support and empower each other. The Vocal PVA class is timetabled at the same time as PVA Strings and PVA Band 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.

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.

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 vocal experience should complete Beginner Strings before registering for this course.

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 and ensemble repertoire through focused 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. The Concert Choir performs at major musical events throughout the year. Expert instruction and a strong sense of community will help all prospective singers become confident members of the Concert Choir by our first performance.

PVA Chamber Choir
The Chamber Choir is comprised of students who have successfully auditioned into the choir and want an in-depth musical experience. This group of students works on more advanced repertoire to challenge 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

Vocal Jazz
The Vocal Jazz ensemble explores the world of chamber jazz music and a cappella voicing. It is an auditioned ensemble to support those who want to develop their musicianship, collaboration, mic technique, and improvisation skills. Vocal Jazz has multiple performance opportunities throughout the year. This family of singers works closely together to understand vocal jazz technique and support a strong community.

Vocal 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.

What's the best way to find out what life in PVA Music is like?
Ask a student!

Meet some of our students

How do you describe PVA Music?

How do we grow in PVA music?

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..

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. 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 vocal 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 take part in!

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.

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