Fort St. John has a quartet of provincially-recognized young musicians. Brian Andersen (Grade 4 guitar), Micah Saunderson (Grade 5 guitar), Tianna Saunderson (Grade 7 voice, Grade 1 violin), and Hyeonseok Kim (Grade 1, flute) were each awarded the Conservatory Canada Medal for Excellence in October.
The medal of excellence is a provincial championship of sorts, and goes to the person who scores the best in their test for their musical grade in the entire province. Musicians must have at least an ‘A’ grade on their conservatory tests, which take place in June, to qualify.
For Kim and Anderson, this is their first time winning the prestigious award, while brother and sister Micah and Tianna each won their fourth medal in guitar and voice, respectively. Tianna always wanted to learn to play the violin, and took the instrument up in September 2019, in time to win her first medal on the stringed instrument.
“It feels good. Hopefully this brings back the streak,” joked Micah, in reference to not winning the medal of excellence in 2019 after winning the three years previous.
Tina also missed earning her fourth medal in a row last year, and was focused on winning the medal of excellence for voice this year.
However, the award for violin caught her completely by surprise.
“I wasn’t expecting the violin award at all, it feels very good,” said Tianna. She had always wanted to pick up the violin, but said her mother wanted her to focus on voice at first.
The four gold medalists, as well as all 25 of the students who took Conservatory Canada tests at Simply Music this year had a much different experience than past years. Instead of having an adjudicator sit near the musician, observing their form, technique, and skill, they did tests via video calls online, with a certain quality of video recording needed to convey the sound accurately to the judge.
The pandemic version of the exam had its pros and cons.
“It was a little less nerve-wracking, not having to do it in person,” said Micah. However, he found it was hard to hear the adjudicator when they would play notes and ask Micah to identify what was being played for the ear training portion of the test.
Winners of the Conservatory Canada Medal for Excellence would normally go perform at a national ceremony in London, Ontario, and a provincial ceremony in Vancouver, but those events aren’t taking place this year.
Although the buzz and excitement surrounding the awards might be a little different this year, the awards are a very impressive accomplishment that is the result of hours of practicing a week and a dedication to the instrument all year round.
“They have done a tremendous job. The dedication and hard work needed to get to this level shows in each of these students,” said Tammy Saunderson, mother to Micah and Tianna and owner of the music school the kids take lessons from. She, along with musical director Paulette Martin have overseen much of the success these students and others have had in recent years. “They want to do their best at something, and a big congratulations to them,” said Tammy.
Aaron Eady, who teaches Andersen and Micah in guitar, said these awards are all due to the student’s discipline.
“I’m so proud of the hard work they’ve put in, not just this year but all four years I’ve taught them. It’s the discipline and drive they have to learn and perform at a high level, that’s what it comes down to,” said Eady.
Micah and Tianna with their four awards are following in the footsteps of peer Carl Berresheim, who graduated last year after winning four Conservatory Canada Medals for Excellence himself.
Email reporter Dillon Giancola at email@example.com.