Piano students delighted to win gold in the Royal Conservatory of Music competition


“I think they could hear my cries of joy all along the street,” Taya Koski recalls hearing the news of several gold medals.

The term practice makes perfect is close enough to the truth for three local piano students.

Despite the challenges presented over the past year and a half of having to take the majority of online courses, Taya Koski, Jaiden McDonald and Nissita Francis with Fiona Weng from Toronto heading to Barrie for her classes persevered and reaped the rewards of their hard work.

They recently learned that they are the recipients of the 2021 Regional Gold Medals from the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM), prestigious awards given to the student who achieves the highest mark of their level on their RCM exam in Ontario for all exam sessions of the year.

“I was very excited and thrilled,” said Cheryl Graham, piano teacher and owner of Joyful Sounds Music Studio, where the four took their lessons.

Weng and Koski also both received the rare mark of 98 percent on their piano exams, winning gold for Ontario. These ratings, Graham noted, also earned them the national gold medal for the highest rating in all of Canada.

Koski also won the regional gold medal (Ontario) for level 6 piano with a score of 95 percent, while McDonald won the gold medal for elementary piano pedagogy. a first level of the ARCT teaching diploma (associate’s diploma).

McDonald, 18, will also graduate at RCM’s convocation this weekend in a virtual ceremony with her ARCT performer diploma with first-class honors, Graham noted, adding that the teenager had passed both the Interpreter and First Level Teachers exam while in grade 11 high school. .

Francis, 19, will also graduate as an ARCT interpreter. She’s been taking lessons with Graham since she was four, recounting Barrie today the piano occupied much of his life growing up.

“I’ve always had something to do with the piano every day, be it a lesson, a competition, a concert, a workshop, an exam,” said Francis.

With the help of her parents and teachers pushing her to reach her potential, Francis has had the honor of winning several scholarships and awards over the years at local music festivals and provincial competitions.

“It’s so gratifying to have completed my ARCT in Piano Performance with the Royal Conservatory of Music. … (This is) the best achievement of my life because of the practice and hard work I had to put in, ”she said. “Most importantly, learning to play the piano allowed me to discover my true passion for teaching. Despite the obstacles that the pandemic has put in their path, my students are working hard and dedicating themselves to overcoming this to achieve their goals in music. “

McDonald was also cited as a youngster when she started playing the piano. take his first lesson at the age of five.

“My parents recognized the benefits of music lessons and wanted me to be exposed to music. I was schooled at JK’s house until grade 12 and always looked forward to practicing the piano every day as part of my school routine, ”she said.

McDonald started classes with Graham after moving to Barrie when she was 11.

“She completely changed the way I played the piano and gave me a love for music. Since then music has been such a big part of my life because it gave me something that I am passionate about and it really inspired me to always do my best and strive for my goals. “she said.

“Music was a great creative outlet for me as a kid and it also pushed me out of my comfort zone by giving me the opportunity to perform in front of others,” McDonald added. “I started teaching the piano to a few students when I was 13, and now that I have graduated from high school, I teach piano full time while continuing my music studies. “

McDonald is proud of her accomplishment, adding that she was thrilled to be graduating from ARCT in Piano Performance as it was the culmination of her many years of hard work.

“I was also very surprised and delighted to learn that I won the regional gold medal for elementary piano pedagogy, which I completed last year. I certainly didn’t expect to win the gold medal, so it was very exciting, ”she said. “This fall I am working on completing my intermediate pedagogy level and look forward to continuing to work for the remainder of my ARCT teaching degree.

Koski, who will be 12 this weekend, was five when she started playing. She says Barrie today she chose the piano for several reasons.

“We already had a piano at home; I really like classical music; and it seemed like a very grown-up thing to be able to play the piano once you’re good at it, ”Koski said. “Even from the first days and my first lessons, I loved the challenge of learning new things on the piano. I always like the fact that with the piano there is always more to work on.

“Even after you’ve perfected a song, even after you’ve performed it, you can keep working to make it even more musical.”

Over the years, the piano has become for her more than a fun activity.

“I love that the piano gives me a way to bring music to life and even gives me a way to express emotions. Best of all, I love to see the joy my music brings to others,” Koski added. “There’s nothing better than knowing that other people get a smile, even a tear sometimes, when I’m on stage.

“As much as I love to play, however, when I get older I would love to be a piano teacher like Mrs. Graham.”

Koski said she was “shocked and surprised” to learn that she had received not one but two gold medals.

“When my teacher, Ms. Graham, called to tell us the news, she first told me about the regional gold medal for grade 6. Then she said, ‘Well, I guess that’s three gold medals!’ I was really puzzled, because even though I had been awarded the gold medal a few years earlier for 3rd year, and now this one for 6th year, it seemed to me that it totaled two medals.

“But then Ms. Graham exclaimed, ‘Oh, yeah, I mean three, because you also won for 7th grade and best of all, your score was the highest in all of Canada,’ Koski added. . “I think they could hear my cries of joy all along the street.”

These accomplishments take a lot of discipline, Graham acknowledged.

“It also takes persistence at times when something can be a bit difficult and keep a good attitude for sure,” she said. “One of the great things that I try to teach my students is maybe not learning songs but how to approach the piano. How to make them feel free when they play.

“If something gets difficult, it’s usually because a student doesn’t know how to practice properly. They don’t know how to separate it, so a lot of it teaches them how to practice, ”Graham added. “Practice doesn’t make perfect… perfect practice makes perfect. And learn techniques that will keep things interesting.

Graham said she was honored to be the teacher of the four gold medalists.

“I’ve had gold medalists from Ontario in the past, but to have so many in a year, including national gold medalists, is really a very rare and special honor,” she said. declared.


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