Under the watchful eye of her teacher Nicole Arendt

Under the watchful eye of her teacher Nicole Arendt

Musicians in the making

Nanaimo Conservatory of Music welcomes students of all ages, abilities to learn

Serena Jack’s fingers dance across the piano keys as her eyes scan the black and white sheet music in front of her.

The phrase is repeated slow, then quick, to implant the muscle memory into her brain. Then her teacher throws a ball at her.

Because piano lessons are so much about repetition, to keep students engaged, interested and on their toes, teacher Nicole Arendt devised several ways to keep her students entertained.

They toss a ball; play tick-tack-toe; and collect stuffies, seashells or brightly coloured sticks to mark the number of repetitions for a phrase or passage. Serena plays, then Arendt plays to demonstrate proper technique and intonation, as Serena tosses the ball back.

In the year since Serena started studying piano at the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music, she earned first-class honours in Grade 3 from the Royal Conservatory of Music. Skipping the fourth level, her lesson focused on what’s needed to earn her Grade 5.

Serena is on a modified Suzuki method piano curriculum. Students in that program choose whether to take exams and parents are much more involved in the learning process, but Arendt adapted the program to suit Serena’s unique needs.

The 13-year-old, who began classes at the Conservatory four years ago in violin, fiddle and harp, plans to teach master pianists as a career.

“So, the best of the best,” she said.

The Suzuki method, which the conservatory uses extensively, allows children at a young age to begin learning music. They listen and learn the music by ear, gradually moving on to sight reading.

“You don’t learn to read a book before you can speak,” Arendt said.

Parents – or siblings, as Serena’s younger sister Tianna, 7, also takes piano lessons – also sit in on lessons and take home notes to help their children practise.

“We all work together to make it something really fun,” Arendt said.

Serena’s and Tianna’s father, Bill, said the lessons spur creativity in his daughters.

“You give them a little bit of free time and they create their own music,” he said. “They have a love for music.”

Arendt, a timpani player for the Vancouver Island Symphony, is also a Kindermusik teacher, which is a program, founded in Germany, aimed at early music education for newborns to age three. Students can begin Suzuki programs as early as age three as well.

Many of the students and their families who start early at the conservatory continue taking lessons into their teen years, said Kathleen Darby, executive director.

The not-for-profit organization provides affordable music instruction for people of all ages and ability. It also provides a place for people to perform, offering harp, choir and orchestra ensembles. The junior harp group opened for Winter Harp at the Port Theatre in December and the Nanaimo Youth Choir regularly wins national awards.

Those groups, which include lessons, are available for a cost of about $25 a month.

“Where else would you have those opportunities?” Darby said.

It’s not just classical music that the conservatory offers, either.

“If you want to learn to play violin for the Queen’s, you can do that, too,” Darby said. “We offer the community what they want.”

The conservatory also hosts a solo piano concert featuring a top Canadian pianist. Previous concerts featured Anton Kuerti and Janina Fialkowska.

The conservatory hosts the second annual Vancouver Island Chamber Music Festival Feb. 24-26 with eight groups performing over three days. A festival pass is $30.

“You don’t have to be a student here to participate in our events,” Darby said.

The conservatory operates out of a renovated building at 375 Selby St. For more information on programs and events, please visit www.ncmusic.ca or call 250-754-4611.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com

Serena Jack’s fingers dance across the piano keys as her eyes scan the black and white sheet music in front of her.

The phrase is repeated slow, then quick, to implant the muscle memory into her brain. Then her teacher throws a ball at her.

Because piano lessons are so much about repetition, to keep students engaged, interested and on their toes, teacher Nicole Arendt devised several ways to keep her students entertained.

They toss a ball; play tick-tack-toe; and collect stuffies, seashells or brightly coloured sticks to mark the number of repetitions for a phrase or passage. Serena plays, then Arendt plays to demonstrate proper technique and intonation, as Serena tosses the ball back.

In the year since Serena started studying piano at the Nanaimo Conservatory of Music, she earned first-class honours in Grade 3 from the Royal Conservatory of Music. Skipping the fourth level, her lesson focused on what’s needed to earn her Grade 5.

Serena is on a modified Suzuki method piano curriculum. Students in that program choose whether to take exams and parents are much more involved in the learning process, but Arendt adapted the program to suit Serena’s unique needs.

The 13-year-old, who began classes at the Conservatory four years ago in violin, fiddle and harp, plans to teach master pianists as a career.

“So, the best of the best,” she said.

The Suzuki method, which the conservatory uses extensively, allows children at a young age to begin learning music. They listen and learn the music by ear, gradually moving on to sight reading.

“You don’t learn to read a book before you can speak,” Arendt said.

Parents – or siblings, as Serena’s younger sister Tianna, 7, also takes piano lessons – also sit in on lessons and take home notes to help their children practise.

“We all work together to make it something really fun,” Arendt said.

Serena’s and Tianna’s father, Bill, said the lessons spur creativity in his daughters.

“You give them a little bit of free time and they create their own music,” he said. “They have a love for music.”

Arendt, a timpani player for the Vancouver Island Symphony, is also a Kindermusik teacher, which is a program, founded in Germany, aimed at early music education for newborns to age three. Students can begin Suzuki programs as early as age three as well.

Many of the students and their families who start early at the conservatory continue taking lessons into their teen years, said Kathleen Darby, executive director.

The not-for-profit organization provides affordable music instruction for people of all ages and ability. It also provides a place for people to perform, offering harp, choir and orchestra ensembles. The junior harp group opened for Winter Harp at the Port Theatre in December and the Nanaimo Youth Choir regularly wins national awards.

Those groups, which include lessons, are available for a cost of about $25 a month.

“Where else would you have those opportunities?” Darby said.

It’s not just classical music that the conservatory offers, either.

“If you want to learn to play violin for the Queen’s, you can do that, too,” Darby said. “We offer the community what they want.”

The conservatory also hosts a solo piano concert featuring a top Canadian pianist. Previous concerts featured Anton Kuerti and Janina Fialkowska.

The conservatory hosts the second annual Vancouver Island Chamber Music Festival Feb. 24-26 with eight groups performing over three days. A festival pass is $30.

“You don’t have to be a student here to participate in our events,” Darby said.

The conservatory operates out of a renovated building at 375 Selby St. For more information on programs and events, please visit www.ncmusic.ca or call 250-754-4611.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com