Young pianists take home top prizes from Royal Conservatory examinations

Piano teacher Elaine Taylor says she was delighted, although not entirely surprised to learn that two of her students, Nevé Freed and Miranda Forster won First Class Honours with Distinction in their Royal Conservatory of Music exams that took place last year. 

“I used to adjudicate myself, and I hear them before they go into the exams so I know how prepared my students are,” says Taylor. “But the competition is really tough.”

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Taylor says that many of her students received First Class Honours in their exams, and others choose not to do the exams at all and stand out in their own ways.

“One student, Luke Morales, has never taken an exam. He’s really into jazz, and is now a peer-teacher at Rockridge,” says Taylor. “The decision to take these exams simply raises the bar, and gets students working towards a goal.”

During the exams, students are expected to demonstrate their ability to read music (sight-reading), their ability to listen to a piece of music and identify pitch or repeat a rhythm, and also to play a repertoire from memory.

“I like to expose my students to a wide variety of music, and they can chose what they want to play - it can be anything from pieces composed in the romantic era to something composed yesterday,” says Taylor. “We work together to decide what they will play in the exam.”

She likens practicing to paying off a credit card bill.

“If you only pay off a little at a time, it will take you forever to pay it off,” she says. “And anything less than a half hour per day will not do much. Parents need to help build the routine, and eventually practicing, playing, becomes part of who you are as a person. The kids I work with might not always want to practice, but they definitely want to be in piano.”

Taylor says that she while she has been teaching music since her first year of university, it was never her intention to become a piano teacher.

“I taught French, Spanish and German and was planning on getting my doctorate in order to teach at the university level,” says Taylor. “But I guess that in the end I found the most value in teaching music, and I really enjoy the one-on-one aspect.”

The value, Taylor says, includes the thickening of the pre-frontal cortex and building pathways through different areas of the brain.

“Piano requires seventeen different brain centres to synchronize with one another, it’s like building the playground of the mind,” she says. “It helps with stress management, anxiety and executive function. I have collected many articles that explain these benefits.”

Taylor adds that she is happy to see so many parents on Bowen seem to understand these benefits, and so much opportunity to learn about music here.

“We have a really musical culture that has been built, and Bowen has so many people in different musical fields. It is an embarrassment of riches.

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