Local piano student Ella Haffner (10) was recently distinguished with a gold medal for her Preparatory B exam score.
The award was granted noting hers as the highest scoring exam of its type between Alberta, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories by the Royal Conservatory Music System (RCMS).
“It’s pretty cool… I definitely didn’t expect that when I started. I didn’t even expect to have an exam considering I only [just] started,” said Ella.
She added the exam was something she felt overall had prepared very well for and enjoyed doing.
“I feel like the songs that I played in my exam… I think I did those probably the best out of everything,” she said.
“I had this sounds test, so [the examiner] would play a chord and I had to guess if that was a G chord or an E chord, and that was probably the most difficult.”
Ella’s instructor, Carolyn Steeves, said the award came as a pleasant surprise to her as well.
“I’ve just taught Ella for a year… and she prepared her exam like every other student and when her mark came back it was very high. I thought there might be a chance that she would win a medal, but I never thought any more about it.”
Exams within the RCMS begin at what is called the Preparatory A level, and become progressively more difficult. The stages further include Preparatory B, grades one through 10, and an Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto (ARCT) exam.
Students have a choice of whether they wish to attempt a RCMS exam, as, according to Steeves, it is a comprehensive process that requires a large workload to have prepared.
For her Preparatory B exam, Ella was required to have prepared three pieces, a series of technical exercises, ear tests and sight reading.
“You have to be able to present well and talk to the examiner… your whole being at the piano is evaluated— your expressiveness, your artistry… all of those things shine through when somebody is showing their skill level,” said Steeves.
“This is the first time I’ve had one of my own students get a medal and so that was very special for me and for Ella and for her family.”
“It’s a huge honor to know that you have the highest mark in that exam in all of Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. It’s a pretty remarkable achievement.”
Ella’s mother, Katelyn Redekopp, said the family is very musical, and they chose Steeves to teach Ella because of her reputation as the best piano instructor in town.
Ella herself added she has since also begun learning to play guitar, and wants to eventually do something more significant with her music, such as potentially playing in a band.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times