Sophie takes gold in piano

Royal Conservatory

Ten-year-old Gibsons resident Sophie Malcolmson has won a gold medal from The Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) for scoring the top mark, 98 per cent, in British Columbia on the Level 1 Piano examination. Sophie received the award on Nov. 6 at a public ceremony in Vancouver. Her piano teacher, Patricia Greenfield, was present, as were some of Sophie’s family.

Greenfield has taught Sophie ever since she was seven, and the teacher was thrilled to see her pupil honoured, the only student from the Sunshine Coast in a list of regional honourees.

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Sophie’s parent, Gaelen Gorman, said that Sophie completed her exam last January so the gold medal ceremony was a fun excuse for them to celebrate her achievement again.

“Not to take away from the medal,” Gorman said, “but I think just doing an RCM exam is a huge accomplishment in itself... Sophie had only been playing the piano for two years when Patricia asked her if she would like to do an exam. My first instinct was ‘no, thank you, she has enough commitments right now.’ But Sophie said sure, so we signed her up. It was never about getting amazing marks – it was more about having a goal to work towards.”

The presentation at the Chan Centre in Vancouver included speeches, music and a reception. Dr. Peter Simon, principal of the Conservatory, gave an address that Greenfield describes as amazing. “Music has the power to transform lives,” he said. He also noted that it was important to have the triangle of support: the parents, the teacher and the student all on board.

Greenfield was surprised at the ceremony when she was named one of the country’s Gold Medal Teachers for 2016. She joined the Registered Music Teachers Association of Canada when she was 26 and has been teaching ever since. 

Gorman notes that, “I am sure the reason Sophie loves playing the piano has a lot to do with having an amazing teacher. She has never asked to miss a class or dreaded her lessons... Patricia has this amazing gift that makes Sophie feel like she is just going over for a weekly visit and they happen to play the piano while they are together. Patricia always teaches music with such gentleness and so much heart that it is no wonder her students love her.”

Greenfield said that of special note at the ceremony was the heart-warming presentation of the 2016 RCM Teacher of Distinction Award to retired Vancouver teacher, Keiko Parker. Her son, the renowned pianist Jon Kimura Parker, surprised everyone including his mother by flying in from Toronto to assist in the presentation.

“Lots of tears!” Greenfield said. “It is indeed a cherished memory for Sophie, her family and friends and fellow students and musicians.”

Sophie doesn’t plan on doing another exam until next year. She is focused on preparing for her RAD Ballet exam on Nov. 24 and has been busy Saturdays and Sundays rehearsing for the local Nutcracker production. She has several parts and will be dancing in three of the shows.

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