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Young musicians bring medals home

With a variety of bands, choirs and talented performers, the Battlefords have a rich variety of musical offerings. And it seems this atmosphere will continue, as young, developing musicians excel in their music instruction.

With a variety of bands, choirs and talented performers, the Battlefords have a rich variety of musical offerings. And it seems this atmosphere will continue, as young, developing musicians excel in their music instruction.

Every year, the Royal Conservatory of Music bestows coveted Silver Medals on students who achieve "the highest standard of excellence in their respective province or designated region."

This year, four students in the Battlefords achieved that distinction, with 54 medals being handed out across the province. A ceremony was held Dec. 4 in Regina to honour this year's silver medalists.

The recipients are: Katrina MacKinnon for Grade 7 piano, Darian Kotchorek for Grade 1 piano, Bethany McQuaid for Grade 6 trombone and Veronica Kmiech for Grade 8 violin.

Darian Kotchorek

"I couldn't believe it," said Darian, adding this is the first examination she's ever taken. Because she did so well, she's considering skipping Grade 2 and taking the Grade 3 examination.

Darian's father, Mark, said he thinks music is an important aspect of a child's development and he's happy to see Darian succeed.

"Now it's gotten to the point where we don't have to bug her to practice anymore," he said.

Debbie, Darian's mother, said Darian keeps busy, learning to play fiddle with the Lawrence School fiddle club, playing French horn in band and taking part in a variety of sports as well as winning the top academic award in her school for the last four years.

"She's amazing," said Debbie.

Although Darian has enjoyed playing the piano ever since "fooling around" on the organ at her grandmother's house, and continues to enjoy developing her talent, she's not sure if she wants to pursue music as a career.

"All I really want is to be able to sit down and play the piano," said Darian.

Ilene Wettergreen, Darian's piano teacher, said most of her students learn the piano for personal enjoyment, much like Darian.

"I think she just enjoys being a student of music," said Wettergreen.

Katrina MacKinnon

"I was excited, it's the best I've ever gotten," said Katrina of her examination score.

Katrina, who has been playing the piano since she was in Grade 1, says she generally finds her musical endeavours to be more challenging than her school work.

"I guess it's because you apply yourself harder to what you love doing," she said.

Katrina, who also takes part in John Paul II Collegiate productions, such as Oklahoma, said she's considered being a music teacher.

Katrina said her success is due to the support she's received from her family and her piano teacher, Dianne Gryba.

"She's amazing, really," said Katrina.

Although Gryba said having a student excel gives her positive feedback as a teacher, Gryba was insistent the silver medals "indicate how much hard work the student has done."

"Katrina is a very, very disciplined girl," said Gryba, adding success in music depends more on dedication than talent.

Bethany McQuaid

When Bethany was in Grade 4, her family was given an old beginner trombone and the odd gift turned into a passion for Bethany.

"I was the only one in our family who could play it," she said.

Bethany, who plays in the City Kinsmen Band, as well as taking private lessons, says the trombone can be a challenging instrument to master.

"You have to have a really good ear for tuning," she said.

Bethany is also an accomplished singer, being a part of the Community Youth Choir and singing at special functions with her family.

Although she enjoys singing, she said trombone took priority and is worth the busy schedule.

Gene Aulinger, City Kinsmen Band's director of music, said, "Bethany is an extremely dedicated student who loves playing her trombone and does an excellent job of it."

Veronica Kmiech

Veronica grew up listening to her grandfather playing old time fiddle. One Christmas, he bought Veronica a violin.

"When I started taking lessons, it was from a classical teacher, so of course I grew to love that," said Veronica of the switch from fiddling to paying the violin.

At the moment, Veronica said she leans towards Beethoven as her favourite composer, but is hesitant to name just one.

"It's really hard to choose a favourite composer because they have so many different attributes," she said.

Although Veronica could envisage herself pursuing music as a career, she said she has a penchant for science and mathematics.

Stephen Kmiech, Veronica's father, had one word to describe his daughter's success: "Wow."

He said she worked hard to achieve her goal.

"I'm proud - very proud," he said.

Veronica laughingly added, "I probably drove my parents crazy," explaining she practiced between two and three hours per day over the summer before her examination.

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