Students Celebrated Across the Country

National Gold Medal winner Prem Pendkar

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? It helps to excel on a Royal Conservatory examination.

Each year, The Royal Conservatory celebrates the achievements of American students. As our program in the United States has grown, so has the number of special events honoring the achievements of American students. This year dozens of award winners were recognized nationwide at celebratory events that took place in New York and California, where recipients were invited to perform one of their best pieces of exam repertoire. Senior Conservatory officials were also in attendance to commend the performers on their hard work and dedication.

Tri-State Students Celebrated in Carnegie Hall

Our most longstanding celebration takes place annually in iconic Carnegie Hall. The event recognizes Royal Conservatory students earning a Certificate of Excellence for scoring the top mark in Connecticut, New Jersey, or New York on their respective Royal Conservatory exams. Each year proud parents, teachers, family members, and friends gather to watch young musicians perform in beautiful Weill Recital Hall before crossing the celebrated stage to collect their certificate.

This year we expanded the event into two ceremonies, one on Saturday, February 20 for students from Connecticut and New Jersey, and a second on February 21 dedicated to winners from New York. Elaine Rusk, Vice-President of The Royal Conservatory Certificate Program, was delighted by the recitals. “It was thrilling for me to hear such engaging, polished performances from singers and a variety of instrumentalists.”

The experience was equally thrilling for the young performers, especially 12-year-old piano student Richard Chen. “That I had the privilege to go [to Carnegie Hall] was really amazing,” he remarked to Connecticut newspaper The Day, adding: “I knew some of the best musicians of the world played [there].” The experience was even more meaningful for 15-year-old Vivek Fernandez of South Brunswick, New Jersey, who dedicated his performance to his late piano teacher, Gary Madison, who died last year.

Because of the growing popularity of our program, in 2017 we will be further expanding our Carnegie Hall ceremonies to celebrate Certificate of Excellence winners from across the northeastern United States. We will be announcing the details in the fall.

California Students Perform at Festivals of Excellence

Our California students were celebrated at one of two regional Festivals of Excellence, one in Southern California and one in Northern California. On January 16, three recitals were held at USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles. “We heard students from all levels, from elementary to advanced, playing a variety of instruments including clarinet, cello, flute, guitar, piano, saxophone, and violin, as well as a number of singers,” noted Ms. Rusk, adding: “Parents and families filled the auditorium, sharing in the joyful atmosphere of the event.”  A second Festival of Excellence was held at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on April 2, also featuring outstanding performances by singers and instrumentalists at every level of the Royal Conservatory curriculum.

Students were invited to perform at the ceremonies as a result of earning a National Gold Medal – awarded to students earning the in the United States on their respective exam – a State Certificate of Excellence, or a mark of 90% or higher on their examination.

National Gold Medal Winners Earn Acclaim Across the Country

Many students across the country earned praise in the press for earning the top mark in the United States on their Royal Conservatory examinations. “I was stunned,” exclaimed Hartland, Wisconsin teacher Ellen Figueira, recipient of this year’s National Gold Medal in Elementary Piano Pedagogy. For Mason, Ohio student Sophia Suriwyo, the prize is a source of inspiration. Speaking to her local paper, the seven-year-old stated: “The award makes (me) want to practice more.”

Many teachers expressed pride in their students, including the teacher of Prem Pendkar, and 11-year-old singer from Franklin, Massachusetts. “We are immensely proud of this young man, said Lisa Ostrow, who is also co-owner of Encore Music Academy and Recording Studios, one of our Founding Schools in the United States. “Best of all, [he] is an absolute joy to work with.” Expressing similar pride is Mario Ajero of Nacogdoches, Texas, whose son Nio earned a National Gold Medal in Level 9 Piano at the age of 11. However, Mr. Ajero resists the prodigy label, stating: “If you knew how much time and practice that [Nio] put into this, that’s really where the benefits come from.”

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