A History of the Oak Bay High School Band (Work in Progress)
GENERAL HISTORY From THE HISTORY OF OAK BAY SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL by Gillian Fosdick (1972) The first school in Oak Bay was built in 1885. It was located on the corner of Cadboro Bay and Lansdowne Road, on the present site of the 18th tee of the Uplands Golf Course. This school served children from as far north as Telegraph Bay, some two and one half miles away, and, from as far south as the vicinity of the Jubilee Hospital. Most of the children who attended lived on farms and because of the great distance had previously not been able to attend any public school.
The second Oak Bay school was located in an area , now subdivided, close to 943 Foul Bay Road. In both cases, the children at the school ranged in age from approximately six or seven to fifteen or sixteen, but it is not clear whether or not the older students were in higher grades, or, if they started school late because of work on the farm and the distance to school.
Around 1912, only four or five students living in Oak Bay were qualified to attend high school and they went to Victoria High School. During the next two or three years this number steadily increased. In 1914, when the number was between twenty-five and thirty, the City of Victoria realized they were educating non-residents and began to urge Oak Bay to pay towards their own secondary education. It was then that the Oak Bay School Board decided to establish a small high school of its own, rather than put it off until the number had reached two or three hundred.
Some thirty-five teenagers, residents of Oak Bay, were qualified to attend, but it was a difficult matter persuading many of their parents that such a small school could possibly compete in any way with the large and well equipped Victoria High School. In 1915, Oak Bay High School began its career with Mr. H. P. Hope as principal and Miss Broadbent as an assistant teacher. The school was located on Oak Bay Avenue on the present site of the Oak Bay Municipal Hall.
As early as 1919, it was recognized that the Oak Bay Avenue property and equipment would soon be entirely inadequate. That year, the School Board purchased the Cassanave Farm on Cranmore Road. It was hoped a new school building would be erected here sometime in the near future. In the meantime the land would serve as a school sports ground. The by-law for the school, submitted for the third time was finally passed in February 1929. Meanwhile, as the enrollment increased to two hundred the school board found it necessary to add two rooms to the existing four room school, in 1921 and again in 1925. With the progress of the school, commercial classes were given. Owing to the growth of the school, and in order to provide room for new classes, it was found advisable to move the commercial classes over to a small building in the grounds of Willows School. The staff was also increased to keep up with the number of students.
Oak Bay Band
Oak Bay High's musical lessons may have begun with Tom Whittemore teaching popular songs to graduating students. A British Naval Officer, Mr. Whittemore began teaching at Oak Bay in 1921. In a career that spanned more than thirty years, he held positions as Librarian, Vice-Principal and Principal. The yearbook notes his hobbies as violin and golf. He and his wife Flossie lived behind the school on Cubbon Drive by Bowker Creek. He spent his whole life after 25, in Oak Bay. (1)
In the 1929/30 yearbook commemorating the opening of the new school, there is mention of a musical concert celebrating the new school. Throughout the small number of yearbooks published in the 1930s, there appeared to be a focus on musical arts and drama, but no mentions of a school band until 1944.
In the Activities section of the 1944 yearbook, an orchestra is mentioned, "Another first at Oak Bay High this year has been the institution of a school orchestra... Progress at first was a bit slow, but now the music is really first class and has a great future in store." At this time, the orchestra consisted of six members who played the trumpet, piano, saxophone, trombone, guitar and traps. In 1945, the orchestra had grown to eight members, with an additional trumpet and a clarinet. The student leader of the band was Bob Love,
In 1951/1952, there was an addition of a Jazz Club and a new orchestra. The yearbook notes, "During the year of 1951-52, an embryo orchestra was formed. It was the first in the school for a long time and is certainly praised for its fine work. At the Christmas Concert, the budding orchestra played two songs and met with overwhelming success. Later in the year the members proved themselves even more talented, displaying their musical gifts in an overture to "Gondoliers" and other selections. This orchestra appears to be the first Band Class at Oak Bay High." It was part of the school curriculum and worth five credits to each member. The yearbook goes on to say, " Although half the members were 'matrics', it is hoped that the juniors will develop this year's good start towards a bigger and better orchestra." The orchestra consisted of a piano, saxophone, two clarinets, drums, cornet and an accordion.
By the 1970s, Oak Bay Junior and Senior Secondary schools had a very active band program, with a total of 411 band students. According to the member’s skill, they were placed in one of the four band classes. The primary goal in these band classes was education in music through the learning how to play a musical instrument. During these classes the students played technical studies which built the players' skill, making them better musicians. These bands never had public concerts, however, from these classes students were chosen to take part in one of the three performing bands, These bands were called Grey, Scarlet and Concert Bands. From the Concert Band, interested students could take part in any of the following bands;
Pep Band – This band performed at school and community athletic events, providing light music to suit these occasions. The Pep Band had about twenty-five members in 1972,
Jazz Ensembles – There were two Jazz ensembles in the Oak Bay Bands. The band performs for the school and public. There were approximately forty members in the Jazz Ensemble in 1972.
Chamber Ensemble – This was an informal ensemble and was primarily for personal pleasure. Membership ranged from two to twenty.
Electronic Music – Interested students were given instruction in this contemporary type of music in both classical and synthesizer composition.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the bands performed in almost 200 performances. Many of these were on band trips. The bands travelled to different parts of the world to take part in various events such as Expo ’70 in Osaka. In this period of time, the Oak Bay Senior High School Concert Band won numerous awards. In 1970 the band earned the right, through competition, to officially represent the Canadian Government at Expo ’70 in Japan, upon official invitation of the Japanese Government.(2)
Tiles salvaged from the 1929 building, now in the new Oak Bay High School
Oak Bay High School Song
Accompanied by the Pep Band and led by the Cheerleaders, Oak Bay students sang their school song at Basketball games and School competitions. by J. Bigsby
Okay! Let’s Go Oak Bay Let’s Strive On To Victory And We’ll Show Them How It’s Done Again & Again Sing Out With All Your Might Cause This Team’s Got All The Fight Let’s Win For The Green & White That’s Good Old Oak Bay High. Hey! Green And White, Green And White, These Are The Colours For Which We Fight, Razzle Dazzle Sis Boom Bah Oak Bay High School Rah Rah Rah