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School band trip in jeopardy

Music Society wants deal from Air Canada

NNSL Photo

Adam Taaffe (trumpet), Jessica Young (clarinet), Andrew Morrison (drums) and Brendan Doherty (electric bass) are members of the Inuksuk high school band. - Jennifer McPhee/NNSL photo

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Apr 15/02) - Inuksuk high school band members are practising hard for a trip to the Atlantic Band Festival in Halifax next week.

Most of the students -- who are even busking around the city and volunteering for local businesses to raise money -- don't know they might not go.

First Air gave the band a good deal on flights to Ottawa -- $395 return per student.

But Peter Scott, treasurer of the Iqaluit Music Society, said Air Canada originally refused to give them excursion or discount airfares to Halifax on the only connecting flight available to the band, even though seats are available.

"They said they can't sell us excursion rates because they are all sold out," said Scott.

They did offer him, later, economy seats on the same flight with a 30 per cent discount.

Nineteen students and three chaperons plan to go on the trip. Scott said the discount airfares would still cost the Iqaluit Music Society about $22,000.

"It's a ridiculous price, it's outrageous," said Scott.

Air Canada offered the students excursion rates on another flight, which would mean staying overnight both ways. Scott said they don't have enough chaperons for that -- and hotel costs would consume any savings on air fares.

The society, parents and students have raised about $8,000. Scott said they can afford to spend about $1,000 on airfare per student.

School music teacher Colleen Walsh said the trip gives students a rare chance to see professionals as well as other school bands play.

"That's not something that happens in Iqaluit very often," she said. "They've been working so hard ... this would really reward them for their work."

Walsh added the trip will motivate others to join the school's fledgling music program. "It's important to have a carrot for them," she said.

Clarinet player Jessica Young raised money playing in local restaurants.

"It's not very cool," she said, after hearing the trip could be cancelled.

An Air Canada official who refused to give her name would not comment on the situation. She did say: "So they want Air Canada to give them charity?"