Killarney alumni band gathers to celebrate Canada Day with music


When retired Killarney School band director Tim Lawson decided to put on a Canada 150 Alumni Band Concert he had no idea how many musicians he’d get, or how good they would sound. As it turns out, both things have pleasantly surprised him.

“We’re up to close to 50 members now,” said Lawson. “And we’re sounding really good. It’s been such a great experience, and now I just hope we can pack the house at the Shamrock Centre on Canada Day.”

The alumni sign up started fairly slowly, with 15 musicians recruited by May. It picked up steam when rehearsals started in June, however, with more being added to the list as the weeks counted down. In fact, just last week this writer was persuaded into joining by a fellow former saxophonist, and he’s glad he did.

After my first practice I talked to four alumni recruits, all still living in Killarney, about their experience in this retro band. They were markedly similar, with the initial trepidation about joining after not touching their instrument for at least a decade or two, followed by joy.

Jeff Blixhavn had been the longest retired musician of the four interviewed, having not picked up his baritone saxophone in 25 years. He said it was unbelievable how fast it all came back to him.

“I remembered notes and fingerings, and it was really neat,” said Blixhavn. “I didn’t know if any of it was going to come back, and it actually came back quick. At the first rehearsal everyone was saying the same thing, that they couldn’t believe how fast it came back to them.”

Blixhavn’s bari sax buddy in the band, Jared Bartley, had a similar experience.

“I thought there is no way, after 21 years, that we’re going to be able to play that music,” said Bartley, who graduated in 1996 and hadn’t played his sax since. “So I went over the fingerings, and got here for the second practice, and when I started to play it actually felt like I never even quit after high school. You’re nervous to do it, but once you start doing it, you realize you should’ve done this before. It’s great.”

Kyla Urquhart also had doubts about dusting her flute off after 13 years for the alumni band.

“I heard about it, but didn’t think I could do it,” said Urquhart. “I saw Tim and he asked me if I’d be interested. I said I wasn’t sure, and then he dropped music off to me the next day. I didn’t think I’d be able to play, because it had been such a long time since I’d picked up the flute – since high school. But it came back. It’s all those hours of practicing coming back to you.”

Fellow flutist Nicole Fleming had a different story about her fluting familiarity.

“I actually still played it off and on over the years, because I still play piano too,” Fleming said. “And with my oldest daughter starting to do guitar lessons with her dad, I’d pull my flute out and play along with them. So it’s kind of nice to get together in a big group, and have it make sense. Playing by yourself sometimes doesn’t sound like anything. So getting together with a group, and seeing some people that I haven’t even seen for 15 or 20 years is so nice too.”

The Killarney School Alumni Band will play seven songs in total at the concert at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Shamrock Centre. An art exhibition will precede the show, and a variety of amazing musical numbers will appear in between the alumni band’s performances that bookend the concert.

“I hope Tim takes this band as a credit to what he did,” said Jeff Blixhavn. “It’s stuck with us for this long, and I hope he takes it for the compliment to him that it is.”

That sentiment seems to be echoed by every member of the band, many who just realized they could still play music.

“He’s the reason we love this so much and came back to do it,” said Jared Bartley of his old band teacher. “And this is such a stress reliever. It seemed stressful at the time, when you were in music and thought that was stress. Now we’ve all got mortgages, children, and this is the biggest break and night out that is just such a stress reliever. You can’t even describe how good it makes you feel.”

For a full list of Canada Day 150 events check this week’s Killarney Guide, or view our website at

Band director Tim Lawson leads his Killarney School Alumni Band in preparation for the big concert to celebrate Canada’s 150th, this Saturday in Killarney’s Shamrock Centre at 1 p.m.


Killarney School’s former band director Tim Lawson holds some old photos from his glory days, with a trophy case full of pictures and medals behind him, still showcased in KCI’s hall.