Vic Lewis Band Festival
Canmore Collegiate High School; Canmore Recreation Centre
Each November, the Rockies come alive with the sound of music, as concert and jazz band members strike up the bands! The artsPlace Vic Lewis International Band Festival is a three-day, non-competitive event for junior high and high school bands. Our focus is learning, with instruction delivered by an international faculty of top-tier professional musicians and educators.
Contact Person: Tracey Wilkins
The artsPlace Vic Lewis Band Festival has earned the reputation of being one of the very best non-competitive band festivals in Alberta.
Each fall, over 800 junior high and high school concert and jazz band members journey to Canmore to spend two days and nights expanding their skills, making new friends, and enriching their lives by attending workshops, giving public performances, playing for adjudicators, and listening to faculty recitals.
This year's Festival takes place from November 3 - 5, 2017
The 2017 schedule will be posted shortly
To volunteer for the festival, please contact us at [email protected], or by calling us at 403-609-2623. We'd love to have you!
The artsPlace Vic Lewis International Band Festival is always a popular event, not only with attending students and faculty, but with the foundations, institutions, and businesses that return year after year as sponsors. We wouldn’t exist without your generosity. Thank you!
For information on becoming a Vic Lewis sponsor, click here.
The Vic Lewis Story
In the Bow Valley, the Vic Lewis name is synonymous with band music and student bands. A dedicated musician, talented arranger, and devoted teacher, Vic brought bands to the local schools not once, but twice, and introduced hundreds of young students to the music he loved.
Vic inherited his passion for music from his musician father, who once told him that if he wanted music in the valley, he’d “have to go to the kids.” Vic heeded that advice in the 1940s – while he was in his 30s – but it was not without challenge. Because Vic didn’t have a teaching certificate, he couldn’t teach in the schools, an obstacle he sidestepped by forming a band parents' association that then convinced the school board to purchase instruments for what quickly became a very popular and long-running after-school program.
Interest in band music waned in 60s, though, and the program faltered. As Vic recalled, “the only interest the kids had in music was in guitars or drums . . . if they played a trumpet or trombone they'd sneak down the alley to rehearsals!” The cultural shift to rock and roll, combined with the lack of a formal school band program, led to the eventual dissolution of the Bow Valley bands.
The musical pendulum reversed itself in the early 1980s, and Vic received a call from the Banff High School asking if he would help start a curriculum band program. Vic still didn’t have a teaching certificate, but ensured there was always a ‘certified’ teacher in the room, which provided the cover Vic needed to work his magic. The band program soon had over 100 students and Vic was working full time to ensure its success. The only catch, as Vic remembered, was that he was fully occupied with other projects. The truth was, he said, “I didn't need another full-time job, so I retired. . . again. . . and they hired a qualified instructor.”
School bands made up only a part of Vic’s musical career. His ambition as a young man was to become an arranger for big bands and orchestras, which meant learning all the instruments he wanted to write for. Accordingly, he learned the Hawaiian and Spanish guitar, string bass, accordion, trombone, piano, cello, and drums. "I studied harmony, arranging and composition at Mount Royal,” he said. “I wrote music all night long!"
In the 1930s, Canmore was awash with the music provided by no less than three orchestras and various instrumental subgroupings, including a mandolin quintet. Vic was at the centre of it all, composing, arranging and putting on back-to-back concerts at the Miners’ Union Hall. Later, he teamed up with a number of fine musicians who called the Bow Valley home, including Louis Trono, Johnny Byers, Jim Hutchings, and Emilio Casale, with whom he played for over 30 years. There was apparently no musical task Vic wasn’t interested in taking on. Aside from organizing and teaching the student bands, composing and arranging, promoting concerts, and touring and performing, he was the official bugler for the Legion for over 60 years.
In November 1999, just weeks before he passed away, Phi Beta Mu, the prestigious international association of band masters, appointed Vic Lewis as an honourary member, acknowledging his years of dedication and musical achievement as the teacher and director of school band programs in the Bow Valley. The Vic Lewis International Band Festival is an annual tribute to a terrific musician whose legacy Bow Valley children continue to enjoy today.