Dr. Ben Gagnon
Kevin is a long-time resident of Camrose, moving there in 1975 when his father retired from the Air Force. Enrolling in Junior High at Charlie Killam School allowed for an introduction to band and the Tenor Saxophone. This continued into high school and under the direction of Tom Spila, Kevin played Tenor in the concert band and jazz band. During those years, he was awarded a seat in the Alberta Provincial Honor Band, formed annually and comprised of high school musicians throughout Alberta. Kevin retired his sax in 1981 and later went on to have a successful career as a police officer in Camrose. He retired as a Sergeant in 2014 and wanted to pick up his passion for the sax again. He joined the Camrose Community Band and had a surreal experience playing with Bob Stewardson, who started him on sax in 1975, Bob Bailey whose family was a second home to Kevin, and many other fantastic musicians who have become friends. Most rewarding was being directed by Tom Spila again, 32 years after high school. Kevin was offered the 2nd Tenor Sax seat in the Battle River Big Band in November 2016. “Playing at this level is challenging and rewarding, but mostly humbling as I am surrounded by the finest musicians in the area.” Kevin also enjoys singing and playing Cajon in a church group led by his wife Amelia. They have three adult daughters who also had the wonderful opportunity to be taught piano, voice, clarinet and violin by Camrose musicians, three of whom Kevin gets to play with in the big band!
Mercedes was introduced to music at the tender age of four. Upon moving to Wetaskiwin in 2008, she was enrolled in piano lessons. Working through the Conservatory Canada piano curriculum, she studied to a grade 7 level. Mercedes was introduced to the flute at age eleven and participated in her school’s instrumental program. In high school, she was introduced to the baritone sax and it was love at first ‘honk’! Mercedes is thrilled to join the Battle River Big Band for the 2019/2020 season.
I have been playing in bands since Grade 7 but I didn't start playing trombone until high school. We didn't have band at our high school (Choir instead), so I taught myself how to play the trombone. I took post-secondary education through Camrose Lutheran College and the University of Alberta, graduating in 1975 with a Bachelor of Education, music major. During that time, I studied trombone with Malcolm Forsyth. After many years of working in construction and for CN Rail, I returned to teach band from 2003 until my retirement in 2013. I continued to play for most of my adult life at church, in small groups and community band. I enjoy playing the trombone very much and currently play at church, in the Camrose and District Community Band, Battle River Big Band, Simply Brass (a local brass quintet), orchestras for musicals and in any other groups that opportunity provides. I am quite happy to be involved in music now and am constantly learning new things. Music is great!
Erik grew up on an acreage just outside of Camrose. After completing music studies (jazz piano) at Augustana, he spent nine years in Vancouver, pursuing an interest in sound engineering. Erik moved back to Camrose in 2015, and currently teaches private lessons in piano and guitar as well as music classes at OLMP school. Erik is a proud partner to Stephanie and father to Ingrid and Gretel.
David has been playing the tuba for over 10 years. He played the bass trombone in high school and started playing again when he joined BRBB. Born in the USA, Music has always been a part of David’s life whether it was singing or instrumental work. David is a current student at the University of Alberta - Augustana Campus studying for his bachelor's degree in Music. In addition to his degree, David currently studies tuba with Scott Whetham in Edmonton. David hopes to one day become a high school music teacher and help kids see the joy in making music. Some of David’s musical hobbies included performing in pit orchestras, and playing in multiple small, instrumental groups in and around Camrose.
I was exposed to music of the Big Band genre from an early age, as my Father, Don Bailey was a trumpet player and played in a local dance band. I began playing trumpet in grade seven at Charlie Killam School, under the baton of Mr. Bob Stewardson. In high school, I played in concert band and jazz bands under Mr. Nelson Taylor. I graduated in 1978, missing by only one year the arrival of the next Band director at CCHS, none other than Mr. Tom Spila. I decided to follow the path of becoming a band teacher in my own right, student teaching under Mr. Spila and graduating from the University of Alberta in 1983. I worked as a band teacher in Rocky Mountain House, Manning, and finally back to Camrose, where I have now been running the CKS bands and choirs for 32 years. The CKS program currently has over 300 students from grades six through eight. There is a jazz band and a choir, as well as numerous small ensembles. In addition, I teach beginner band at the four public grade five feeder schools in Camrose. All in all, I have about 550 students. In my own time, I play in the Camrose Community Band, a brass quintet called “Simply Brass”, and of course, the “Battle River Big Band”. The Big Band offers me a chance to perform in a variety of styles. In particular, I enjoy the Big Band classics upon which I was raised and developed my love of music.
I have been playing the trumpet in and around the Edmonton and Camrose area for many years both professionally and semi-professionally. I have studied trumpet with some of the foremost trumpet players of the 20th century such as Vincent Cichowicz (assistant Principal with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and Armando Ghitalla (Principal trumpet with the Boston Symphony Orchestra) as well as many of the fine trumpet players in Edmonton such as Alvin Lowrey(Principal trumpet with the ESO), Bill Dimmer (Assistant Principal trpt. with the ESO) and Dr. Duke Pier,. (Brass instructor with the University of Alberta) and Dawn Hage (M.Mus from Northwestern University), all of whom have been influenced or studied directly with Vincent Cichowicz and Armando Ghitalla among many other excellent trumpet players. I play with many of the groups in Camrose including; The Camrose Community Band, The Battle River Big Band, Simply Brass (a brass quintet made up of players from the community such as Bob Baily, Tom Spila, Olav Traa and Norm Skretting) and the Scandia Brass (a Brass group made up of members from the Scandia area near Armena). I have also played with many of the choirs in Camrose such as Camerata and have been involved in the development of the younger generation of Brass players in Camrose and Wetaskiwin by teaching trumpet and ensemble playing in a master class format.
Carson grew up in Camrose and was introduced to the trumpet in Bob Bailey's band class, followed by Tom Spila's. He is studying environmental science at Augustana, allowing him to stay in Camrose and be a part of this band with his old teachers as well as many other role models. Though he is busy with other studies, he finds time to play with the Battle River Big Band as well as the Camrose Community band. He took trumpet lessons for several years with Doug Berner and also sings in Mannskor and The Augustana Choir.
Tom is a graduate of the University of Alberta and has a Bachelor of Education degree with a major in secondary music. He recently retired after having taught music at the Elementary, Jr., & Sr. High School levels for a total of 43 years. The past 39 of those had been spent at the Camrose Composite High School where the music program consisted of concert and jazz bands, mixed chorus, chamber choir and vocal jazz, as well as beginner and advanced guitar. He is currently the director of the Camrose & District Community Band, a position he has held since its inception in 1983. Tom is enjoying the opportunity to play guitar in a big band setting alongside these talented local musicians. He and his wife, Crystal, live in Camrose.
Tova Olson studied classical and jazz piano and hand drumming while at Augustana University College. She has been involved with Kokopelli, an Edmonton-based choral organization, as singer, accompanist and percussion coach since 2004. Tova is an experienced piano teacher and is currently the worship and music coordinator and principal organist for Messiah Lutheran Church in Camrose, AB. As well as being the music director for About Time Productions, Tova arranges and composes music for various ensembles. She has recently started teaching Contemporary Piano and Hand Drumming at the University of Alberta, Augustana Campus and playing piano for the Battle River Big Band.
Steven Hartman is a private music teacher in Camrose, Alberta. In his grade school years, he played saxophone and sang in many choirs, both in school and with groups through church. He participated in the Alberta Honour Choir in high school and played in almost every musical group I could in high school. In grade 11/12 he started beating the drums and experimenting with guitar. After high school he entered into a Bachelor of Music program at Augustana University College in Classical Performance - Voice. During his time in university he started learning bass by joining a jazz combo requiring a bass player. He has been teaching private music lessons since around 2003.
As a lifelong resident of Wetaskiwin, Tyson has spent the last 5 years developing as a percussionist. After being exposed to Jazz music in Elementary school, Tyson joined the Sacred Heart “Beats” Combo in Junior High. He then went on to join the WCHS concert band in grade 9 and the WCHS Jazz band in Grade 10. Tyson is also a founding member of the “#9” Combo. At 17, he continues to study music and play in multiple bands at Wetaskiwin Composite High School. As well as playing Jazz music, Tyson is also a founding member of the band “Beyond Toronto: A Tribute to the Tragically Hip.” He enjoys composing music in his free time and hopes to continue playing music for many years to come.