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Fox musicians toot their horns for Junos

Joey Tsai and his Terry Fox secondary bandmate Sveta Zamaeva are in the StarBand, which plays in front of VAG on March 24.
Joey Tsai and his Terry Fox secondary bandmate Sveta Zamaeva
Joey Tsai and his Terry Fox secondary bandmate Sveta Zamaeva

Last night, tenor saxophonist Joey Tsai and his Terry Fox secondary bandmate Sveta Zamaeva, a baritone sax musician, made yet another trip to Vancouver to rehearse.

The pair is part of an inaugural honours wind band launched by the Juno Awards (which hosts its annual broadcast on March from Rogers Arena in Vancouver on March 25) and MusiCounts, the music education charity affiliated with the Junos and CARAS, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

To be picked for the prestigious StarBand, as it’s called, the 65 student musicians from around the Lower Mainland had to commit to all five practices or lose their seats.

“It’s been a pretty big time commitment: driving there, learning new songs with new people,” said Steve Sainas, the Rock School, recording arts and guitar teacher at the Port Coquitlam school, “but I think it’ll be an experience they’ll never forget.”

Sainas, the 2015 MusiCounts Teacher of the Year a title that came with a Juno Award — was tapped last month by Mark Reid (the winner of the 2013 MusicCounts Teacher of the Year prize and the 2018 Juno host committee education chair) to ask if any Fox students were interested in filling in the StarBand spots.

With the help of Fox band teacher Ryan Cho, Sainas submitted Tsai and Zamaeva’s names after they promised to get to each of the five rehearsals at VanTech secondary in east Vancouver.

Tsai, who picked up the tenor sax four years ago and is also a recording arts student under Sainas, said being surrounded by fellow student musicians is educational; the other participating schools — including Coquitlam’s Maillard middle, John Oliver (Vancouver), Killarney (Vancouver), Sir Winston Churchill (Vancouver), Tamanawis (Surrey) and VanTech — are also MusiCounts Band Aid recipients.

For Tsai, playing music “is a real stress reliever… and having this chance to be with the StarBand is a pretty good opportunity.”

Zamaeva, also 16 and in Grade 11, said she’s “excited” to perform at a pre-Juno Awards bash. “It’s definitely something I’m looking forward to,” said Zamaeva, who picked up the baritone sax two years ago.

The StarBand will perform its tunes — under the direction of Reid — outside the Vancouver Art Gallery (750 Hornby St., Vancouver) on March 24 at 3 p.m. Hosted by CBC’s Grant Lawrence, the Let’s Hear It: Live! concert is free to the public.