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Holy Cross Students Compete on World Stage at Disney

May 12, 2023

Seventy Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School (HCCSS) students traveled to Orlando, Florida during the last week of April where the Vocal Ensemble and the Symphonic Band competed at Festival Disney for the first time since 2018.

“Festival Disney is an elite international music festival, that challenges our student musicians by tasking them to develop their musical skills to their utmost abilities”, said David Orser, music teacher for the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board (ALCDSB). “In addition to providing high-level, performance-based rubrics, the Festival also hires some of the most qualified music adjudicators on the planet, all of whom are professors of music in highly acclaimed university music programs across the United States,” he said. 

HCCSS - Band - Symphony - Festival Disney April 2023.jpg 
The Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School Vocal Ensemble and Symphonic Band pictured at Festival Disney April 2023.  

The Vocal Ensemble performed at Saratoga Springs Resort, where they were awarded Superior. The Symphonic Band performed at the Contemporary Resort, where they were awarded Excellent. Grade 10 student, Micah Garvin, placed Best in the Soloist division and Annabelle Gillis, grade 12 student placed Best in the Accompanist division.
“Watching our student musicians play and sing their hearts out on a world stage, and then be praised in their clinics by some of the greatest music educators in North America, is an incomparable heart-warming experience”, said Orser. “In addition to their musical growth, it is also incredible to watch these kiddos become more seasoned and independent travelers and to witness them build positive relationships with their peers, faculty members, and Festival hosts.”
Edithe Leishman, a grade 11 student who plays trumpet for the Symphonic Band and is a soprano in the Vocal Ensemble describes her experience as a big lesson in learning the value of criticism. “It was an honour to have our performances adjudicated by such esteemed judges, they gave really constructive feedback on how to improve”, she said.
“Performance trips teach students about resiliency, responsibility, accountability, and adaptability. Travelling cross border, in groups for long distances has its challenges and I have learned to view these challenges are opportunities for growth and to gain valuable life skills”, she said.
HCCSS were the only Canadian secondary school to attend the Festival, where they competed against high school bands and choirs from across the United States.