The Handsworth Secondary School Music Program and its directors over the years: Bob Rebagliati, Keith Woodward, Bob Rankin, Brian G’ofrerer, Peter van Ooyen and others.
The Handsworth music dynasty started in 1976 when Bob Rebagliati came to Handsworth. He inherited a good program from Bob Rankin, Joe Berarducci and Brian G’froerer but when Bob arrived it skyrocketed! The vehicle for his success and the success of his young charges were the jazz ensembles he moulded over the years within the district. A comprehensive, well-balanced, rigorous music program that was high in quality. Before Handsworth, it was Hamilton Junior where he achieved national acclaim by winning the cherished gold medal award at the 1976 Canadian Stage Band Festival, the largest and most prestigious event of its kind in Canada. In 1979, his senior jazz ensemble at Handsworth placed first in the New West Jazz Festival. He was able to hire two more music specialists Mary Hume and Bruce Hoadley. Because of Handsworth’s modular timetable, they could all teach their speciality: Mary/woodwinds, Bruce/brass and Bob/percussion.
Other awards followed: at the Coquitlam Music Festival, the New West Jazz Festival, the West Coast Jazz Festival and again at the Canadian Stage Band Festival. In between Bob found time to become President of the North Van Music Teachers Association and President of the B.C. Jazz Educators Association as well as a clinician and adjudicator for jazz festivals throughout the province. With three specialist music educators and Bob Rankin, a former Handsworth music educator as Music Superintendent for North Van, they were able to offer a complete music program from elementary through secondary as well as have an orchestral program led by Roger Wecker and later Peter van Ooyen.
By 1991, over thirty of Reb’s charges had gone on to careers or further education in music, even to Julliard in New York. An organizational whiz who put in twelve hour days his program attracted one-third of the school’s population. His bands were consistently in the top three in BC at various music festivals and they won the cherished first place gold at the Canadian Nationals several times. He took his charges to the Yukon, Nova Scotia, New Orleans, Hawaii, Florida and Banff, usually to a festival. In 1991 Bob was the first secondary school teacher to ever receive the Professional Music Educator’s Award.
Due to budget cuts when Mary and Bruce moved on Bob could only hire one person to replace them. Keith Woodward was hired to take over both their loads. In 1992, when huge budget cuts were announced and all the Music Supervisor positions in the province were cut they lost Bob Rankin.
For the next fifteen years, Keith and Bob team taught and continued to build Handsworth into the jazziest school in Canada cementing its reputation in 1999 with four gold medals at Music Fest Canada. Bob retired in 2004 after twenty-eight years as a top-flight music educator. Keith wasn’t allowed to hire a replacement for him but instead had to take over his load as well as his own which he did for another ten years before retiring in 2014. Keith says in his bio in Hearts, Minds & Souls, B.C. Music Educators, volume 1, “I organized 51 band trips, 116 field trips and over 1000 performances.” During his time at the helm, Keith took his charges to China, Australia, Europe and Alaska. Today the program is run by David Bradshaw.
Handsworth is just one example of the many fine music programs that existed in BC during the Golden Age of Public School Music Education (the 1960s to 1990s). Such programs were possible because the government placed a high value on the arts, unlike today. Arthur Delamont said in his later years, “You are going to miss me when I am gone!” and he was sure right. We also miss the great public school music programs that existed around the province such as this one.
Book II, The School Music Book Project
-putting a face on B.C.s historic arts programs
Published by: Warfleet Press
Release Date: Fall, 2022
Pages: 268, $49.95 plus shipping
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