Grade 12 student Catherine has trained for years for this moment. With dedication and practice, she recently earned an Associate Diploma (ARCT) from The Royal Conservatory of Music, a prestigious achievement requiring the completion of many levels of theory, history and performance tests.
On top of earning her ARCT Diploma, Catherine was also awarded the Diploma Gold Medal for ARCT Performers Piano. The Gold Medal is awarded to the person with the highest ARCT examination score in each province.
Catherine started preparing for the ARCT exam when she was 14, and her preparations involved preparing six pieces in total, in contrasting styles from different time periods. “I worked on these pieces for a few months, then took the exam, where I had to play these pieces consecutively, totalling about an hour of playing!” she said. “I am used to performing, but playing challenging pieces for that amount of time with no breaks in between was a new challenge for me.”
Winning the Gold Medal was a surprise. “I was not expecting it at all, so it was a pleasant surprise!” she said. “I knew I would be receiving the ARCT Diploma upon completing all my exams, but I had no idea that I had received the best scores in Ontario. I am thrilled and honoured to have received this award from the Royal Conservatory of Music.”
Catherine loves playing piano because it’s a way to express herself. “Music is a universal language that can touch people in a variety of ways, making us feel a whole range of emotions,” she said. “Playing piano is something that is inseparable to me at this point; after all, I have been playing it since I was four years old. There is something special about the feeling of being on stage and sharing what I love with others that makes me want to return to it time and time again.”
The Gold Medal is not Catherine’s first award. At age 9, she won second place at the Canadian Music Competition (National). When she was 11, she placed third in the American Protégé International Romantic Piano Competition and played at Carnegie Hall.
Since Grade 7, Catherine has attended a pre-college program at the Royal Conservatory of Music called the Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists, where she studies piano, music theory, music history, and aural skills. She also participates in master classes and concerts. “I have participated in competitions from small regional ones when I was five, all the way to international competitions that I participate in nowadays!” said Catherine.
In the future, Catherine is looking to pursue a music major in post-secondary and continue her journey to becoming a professional musician. “Being a professional musician was not always my dream—if you had asked me two years ago, I probably would have told you that I wanted to become an engineer,” she explained. “However, I realized that I cannot live without music and would be happiest if I could continue on to develop my skills even further and make this my career.”
“Since ARCT is the performers’ level, passing the exam is already quite an accomplishment, winning the Gold Medal with the highest score in Ontario is something one could only dream about,” said Catherine’s mother, Margaret. “That’s why I shared this great news with the school.”
Catherine feels that Branksome has helped her realize her dream and has helped her to excel. “Branksome has given me many opportunities to explore both music and academics, so I am applying to dual degree programs as well, which will allow me to continue both. I definitely look forward to competing and performing for live audiences more often, as life slowly resumes back to normal, which is something I have missed over the past two years!”