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Bradford band plays car brakes in performance to win silver-plus rating

‘We literally had a car brake and this really, really heavy mallet,’ says Bradford District High School music teacher

Flutes, clarinets, drums... car brakes?

The concert band at Bradford District High School got creative with their instruments at a recent York Region Music Alive Festival performance, which landed them a silver-plus rating from music experts.

As one of their songs, the 45-member band played The Battlemage by Gavin Lendt. The piece has upbeat, fun percussion parts, said music teacher Holly Reynolds.

“We went to the auto shop (at school). We literally had a car brake and this really, really heavy mallet. (It made) really, really driving sound,” she said, adding some flute and clarinet players ditched their usual instruments to boost the percussion section.

There is such thing as a drum brake, but Reynolds said “it’s way cheaper to go to the scrap yard and find something.”

The band also performed Nimrod by Edward Elgar — “It’s not the Bugs Bunny Nimrod,” Reynolds said — which is a very slow piece.

“It’s very challenging with all of the counting,” meaning students must focus on blending and balancing their playing with each other, Reynolds said.

At the music festival in late March, the concert band did not compete against other school groups, rather played for music experts who judged it on set standards.

The silver-plus rating is the second highest one they could have received, Reynolds said.

““It’s a really great opportunity for them to reflect on how they’re doing. We’re very happy we got silver-plus,” she said, adding the festival also gave students a chance to check out what other bands are playing.

Now, the students are practicing for a May 9 spring concert, which will feature music from the movie How To Train Your Dragon.

“They’re not necessarily trying to be the best. They’re trying to be the best they can be personally, learning those skills. It’s like being on a team. We just love making music,” Reynolds said.