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Three St. Jacobs Conservatory of Music students qualify for provincials

Three locally-trained pianists are headed to the Ontario Music Association finals next month. Madeline Weber, 16, of St. Jacobs, Alanna Martin, 19, of West Montrose, and Cindy Chen, 14, of Waterloo are all headed to the provincial finals to be held in Peterborough from June 6-12, and all are students at the St. Jacobs Conservatory of Music.

“This was a really wonderful surprise,” said Constance Madelina, the director of the conservatory.

“You think your students are doing well, but it’s nice when there’s a universality of opinion.”

All three students qualified based on their outstanding performances at the Kiwanis festivals throughout southern Ontario this year. Weber was the grand-prize winner in Elmira last month and also performed in Kitchener, Martin performed in Stratford and Kitchener, and Chen performed in Kitchener.

This is the first time that the director has had any of her pupils go this far in the competition after years of teaching in Toronto, where her students typically went on to study at McGill or the University of Toronto.

“I really didn’t use the festivals,” she said. “But here everyone does it, so this is the third year that I’ve put students into the festival, but it’s the first year I’ve had anybody who would qualify (for provincials).”

The musicians say they aren’t nervous now, but likely will be when the event draws nearer. Madelina said the rulebook is 16 pages in length and includes a list of prohibited clothes, such as jeans or running shoes, a strict age requirement (all performers must be 14 or older), and there are also regulations on drug use – a component that makes the director laugh.

“I can’t imagine anybody wanting to play seriously under the influence of drugs.”

Madelina began playing at the age of three on her grandparent’s piano and graduated from the University of Toronto with a Masters in Music and Literature, winning the highest award, the WO Forsyth Memorial Scholarship. She was also awarded several Canada Council Grants to study at the Paris Conservatoire.

After teaching in Toronto she moved to St. Jacobs about three-and-a-half years ago to care for her mother, and said that “chance” became “an opportunity” when she decided to open the conservatory, and she will not allow herself to force any of her own expectations on the three students heading to the provincial finals. She simply hopes that they play their best and enjoy the opportunity.

“My mandate is to share the pleasures of music in such a way that it becomes a gift for life, so that it enriches and elevates the spirit.

“You cannot put a price on the joy it brings us in our life.”

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