MONTREAL -- A Hudson teacher is being rewarded for efforts to keep their school's music program humming along during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Until June, the Westwood High School senior band has only been in a room all together twice during the pandemic; once for a rehearsal and then against the MusicFest national competition. Despite the obvious difficulties, the band managed to win gold.

Even now that COVID-19 numbers are shrinking, rehearsals have been adapted; the band wears masks with holes for their mouthpieces and the horns are covered to prevent droplets from spreading. All those adaptations are due to the work of teacher Steve Dubinsky.

“This was my chance to show the kids that doing something exceptional is not just a daily thing, it's focus, it's work,” he said.

For his efforts, Dubinsky has been awarded MusicFest's outstanding band director award.

“It's still so surreal,” he said.

For his students, it's an honour that was earned.

“He set high standards and just found a way to climb up that ladder,” said tenth grader Lucas Brugaletta. “There's always going to be people there to help you and thankfully, I had Mr. Dubinsky.”

Parents also sang praises for the music teacher.

“He teaches life through music and my son was one of those who were so instilled by that that my son went into music in CEGEP,” said Danny Olivenstein.

“What he gives the kids... I've never experienced it with any other teacher,” added Dan Rassi. “My kids have never experienced it with any other teacher and they all love him.”

With the band taking over the library due to the pandemic, Dubinsky's colleagues like librarian Andrea Hyde have also gotten a new appreciation for his approach and passion.

“I had no idea how much heart he put into teaching music. This is his vocation, it isn't just a job for Steve,” said Hyde.

But Dubinsky said all that effort is worth it if it makes his students more creative, well-rounded people.

“Hopefully, when I'm 108-years-old and on my porch in my rocking chair, I'll have all of these memories to think about and be proud of and all these different people that have had their lives impacted by music and success,” he said.