See Fredericton High School’s student technical crew in action!

The young people in Fredericton High School’s student technical crew are developing valuable life skills while getting a leg up in show business production.

Fredericton High School’s student technical crew provides services for school-produced shows and touring professional artists.

Their behind-the-scenes work on productions in the school’s Tom Morris Theatre offers the sort of real-world problem-solving and technical skills that can lead to rewarding careers in many disciplines, including radio, television, film, and theatre.

But the path to fulfilling those lofty career ambitions starts humbly, with prospective candidates willing to push a broom.

“The old broom test is basically something I learned from my grandfather who was an aircraft mechanic in the war,” said teacher and tech crew manager Greg Webber. “I walk out with a broom, and I just start sweeping the floor by myself. The recruits are there, and there are other brooms on the side of the stage. Will they watch an old man sweep the floor and not do anything? Or will they run up and help? If they run up and help, then I’m like, ‘cool, you’re the right kind of person for this.’”

“There’s no way I could manage that theatre [alone]… the kids cover everything,“ said teacher and tech crew manager Greg Webber (centre).

Webber, a 2000 FHS graduate, is adamant about the need for reliability from his tech crew students.

“I have to trust that they want to do the work and that they want to do the right thing,” he said. “When something goes wrong, everybody’s head turns to that person in front of the board. And that high school student has to be able to calmly fix the problem and talk to adults and kids and the general public and the custodians. They have to be able to handle that responsibility.”

Responsibilities for this year’s 18-strong tech crew run the gamut from keeping the theatre clean and repairing broken seats to running sound and offering high-end technical solutions for live streaming. They perform jobs familiar to many from movie closing credits, like grip, boom operator, stagehand, sound/lighting engineer, etc.

And the crew serves two audiences. They work school events, “but when the community uses the theatre, and we rent it out, they’re giving up their evenings and weekends, so we pay them,” Webber said.

“I really like [tech crew] because it can be applied to different things, and I can help out more in the community,” said Grade 12 student Margaret Andow, lead sound technician. “I started volunteering at my church to do sound mixing.”

FHS student tech crew members also volunteered with stage set-up at last year’s East Coast Music Awards show, and some current students and graduates run sound for concerts at local venues.

“I’ve got two former tech crew members looking at summer electrical engineering jobs, and they’re still using those hands-on, problem-solving skills they were using here,” Webber said. “A lot of the skills are transferrable, where you have to have leadership and problem-solving skills—and staying calm under pressure is transferrable to anything.”

The student technical crew works with rapper Boy T on lighting cues before his show at the high school on Wednesday, March 29.

Accountability, reliability, and a willingness to tackle challenges are critical attributes for student tech crew members.

“The tech crew makes my life so much easier,” he said. “There’s no way I could manage that theatre [alone]… the kids cover everything.“

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