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Alumni Fondly Recall Learning to Play Piano

Alumni Fondly Recall Learning to Play Piano

Published on September 17, 2012

Alumni Fondly Recall Learning to Play Piano

As a cat who holds Royal Conservatory of Music certificates in Grade 8 Piano, Grade 2 Theory, and Grade 3 Harmony, I can say that The Conservatory provided my teachers with a format that they followed to give me a solid grounding in classical music. From a base like this, one can go anywhere.

Paul Shaffer, Former Music Director of The Late Show with David Letterman and alumnus of The Royal Conservatory (pictured above)

Alumni of The Royal Conservatory have indeed gone anywhere, from becoming professional musicians and performers, to educators, politicians, and writers. Here, a small selection of our esteemed alumni recalls their early experiences learning to play piano, and reinforces the value of music education on their careers and lives. 

Some of my fondest childhood memories are based on my Saturday morning piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory, where I took lessons from a wonderful woman named Alexandra McGavin. Besides some of the basic classics by famous old composers, she taught me the tunes from Oklahoma! – which my mom and I thought was the most glamorous musical imaginable. 

Every so often, I'd get to perform in a recital with some of Miss McGavin's other students – I remember my very first performance piece was called Waltzing, and I can still play it on the piano to this day. But it was the lifestyle around those Conservatory visits that pleased me as well. Every Saturday, my mom and I and my dad's business partner's wife, Mrs. Skorecki and her son Karl would drive down to Bloor St. in my dad's old 1953 Buick for our lessons (Miss McGavin used to have Karl and me play duets together!) Afterwards, we'd go for lunch at The Honeydew on Bloor St. (a Honeydew and a hot dog were my idea of heaven!) and then we'd spend time gathering chestnuts and watching the squirrels down by Philosopher's Walk.

Jeanne Beker, Fashion designer, author, and television personality 

I started learning classical piano when I was 5 years old, and I’ve been playing piano ever since.

Jaycelyn Brown, Pianist, member of JUNO Award-winning band Said The Whale

I'm so happy to have learned the piano through The Royal Conservatory.  The Royal Conservatory and its community of teachers gave me the musical foundation on which to build my songwriting, and also allowed me to experience performing and learn what it takes to be prepared for a presentation of any kind.  Music has always been a big part of my life.  I loved practicing the piano; I worked really hard at it, and in turn got the satisfaction of mastering challenging parts as a reward.

I could feel and hear the improvements I was making very tangibly.  It didn't mean I necessarily had to go on to become a classical concert pianist, but from learning an instrument I gained valuable insight into how the world works: you get out what you put in.  The harder you work, the better you'll be at whatever it is you are striving for.  Plus, aside from the immense personal satisfaction of being able to play an instrument well, and the creative outlet you will have, you get to really impress your non-musician friends!

Kathryn Calder, Member of JUNO Award-winning  band The New Pornographers

While I was in high school I studied piano and music theory with a private teacher, using the Royal Conservatory's curriculum. I acquired Grade 6 piano, and Grade 3 theory, which set me up very well for further studies at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. The Conservatory's system was challenging but doable, and I would recommend it to any serious music student.

Bruce Cockburn, JUNO Award-winning singer-songwriter

Glenn Gould

I really can’t think of any other music (Bach) which is so all-encompassing, which moves me so deeply and so consistently, and which, to use a rather imprecise word, is valuable beyond all of its skill and brilliance for something more meaningful than that – its humanity.  

Glenn Gould

Learn how to unlock your potential through music education and how to find a teacher near you