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From Anka to BNL: Middle schoolers learn history of Canadian rock

Stettler Middle School students got a crash course in Canadian rock music history last week courtesy of Whitehorse’s Speed Control.

Stettler Middle School students got a crash course in Canadian rock music history last week courtesy of Whitehorse’s Speed Control.

The three-piece band performed in the gym on the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 10, running through Can-Con classics from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Beginning with Paul Anka’s “Diana” and the Guess Who’s “Shakin’ All Over,” the band moved into the 1970s with April Wine’s “She Could Have Been a Lady.”

As the band led into Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” singer and bassist Jody Peters gave the students a quick lesson on the band, lauding the size of Neil Peart’s drum kit and explaining progressive rock as “20-minute songs that no one can understand.”

The band finished its retrospective with the Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week,” with Peters and his brother, guitarist and singer Graeme Peters, delivering the song’s rapid-fire lyrics.

In between songs, band members exchanged quips and trivia, and quizzed the school’s staff and students on rock history. They closed their show with their own song, “Tent City,” the final track on their most recent album, F.A.B., released in 2012.

The show was well-received by students and teachers alike, including Eric Rahn, the band teacher for both the middle school and William E. Hay Composite High School.

“That was an awesome way to present the history of Canadian rock,” said Rahn. “A lot of kids were really pumped about their story, about how they got into music and how they love doing it.”

Speed Control, which also includes drummer Ian March, tours for roughly seven months of the year, performing at schools during the day and playing its own material at bars, festivals and other venues on evenings and weekends.

The band also operates rock camps during the summer, often in remote communities. The Peters brothers, both former schoolteachers, said that playing in schools allows them to combine their passions for education and music.

“We like music too much not to do it,” said Jody, “so we found a way to do both.”

Their path thus far has been a bumpy one at times. In 2010, their tour van caught fire in Fort McMurray, and in mid-September, they lost $7,000 worth of equipment when thieves broke into their trailer in Surrey, B.C.

The latter story had a happier ending, as sponsors Yamaha Canada replaced their PA equipment free of charge, while a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo has so far raised nearly half of its $5,000 goal to replace the remaining equipment.

The band has played for schools over the past three years, and Jody said that while younger students are easier to entertain — “kids love to scream” — older kids are harder to engage, since they’re often more concerned about what their peers will think if they see them enjoying the show.

“That’s my goal,” said Jody. “When I see them, I’m like, ‘I’m gonna get you. I’m gonna make you laugh.’”

“Usually,” said Graeme, “by the end we can win them over.”

For more information on the band — including their forthcoming album, due to be released this fall — visit www.speedcontrol.com.

 

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