Local musician cleans up at festival

Serena Jack has her sights set high for her musical career including Juilliard and travel

Serena Jack recently took home three first-place awards in violin and three first-place awards in piano at the Upper Island Music Festival

Serena Jack recently took home three first-place awards in violin and three first-place awards in piano at the Upper Island Music Festival



Serena Jack was filled with passion and ambition the moment she picked up the violin at five years old.

And the 14-year-old’s recent stack of first place certificates from the Upper Island Music Festival in Nanaimo, in both violin and piano, confirms her enthusiasm for music hasn’t wavered, and the sky’s the limit for her musical career.

“When I first started playing I knew it didn’t sound very good at first, but to me that sound was really great, so I thought if it was great now what will it look like in 10 years?” she said.

The Parksville resident recently picked up three first-place awards in all three categories she entered for Grade 8 violin and three first-place awards in all three categories she entered in Grade 6 piano. Plus she won two bursaries, one for each instrument, for her exceptional performances at the competition.

This was the first time Jack competed in piano and the third time she has entered for violin, for which she has taken home a number of other first place awards in the past.

But this year proved more difficult than past years, and not because of a lack of determination. Jack almost didn’t enter the competition this year because her grandmother was sick with cancer in Calgary and she was flying back and forth repeatedly to the city while she was meant to be preparing for the competition. Her grandmother passed away in January and a week before the festival Jack played the violin at her funeral.

“It was a bit of a struggle but it was really good because it was a good challenge for me,” she said. “Violin just always makes me happy.”

Jack’s love for the violin began while taking Kinder music at five years old and hearing a violin from the shop next door. She asked her mom if she could get one and for her sixth birthday she was given a rental. Her mom told her if she practised every day then she could get her own violin and lessons.

“So I practised every day for a long time,” Jack said cheerfully.

Jack said she thinks she had an infatuation with the violin because it was a lot trickier than other instruments and she likes a challenge.

She took up the piano two years ago because she is working towards her teacher’s certification with the Royal Conservatory of Music, and she needs to have piano under her belt as well.

She said learning the piano has been fun, and she loves “flying around” the keys. And because she has developed into such a strong violinist, learning the piano was pretty easy, she said.

Jack is home-schooled and will be entering Grade 11 this September (a year earlier than usual). Upon graduation she hopes to attend a music university like Juilliard in New York City or the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, where she’ll focus on violin. And she looks forward to a wide ranging performance career.

For now Jack is looking forward to attending some music camps this summer, two in the United States and one in Comox, which she’ll use her bursary money to attend.

Until then she’ll continue to enjoy practising the violin and honing her craft.

“It’s very free, and when I’m playing a certain kind of music, I know how to make it sound really incredible, and I love that.”

Jack will be holding her second children’s summer music camp with local musician Gerry Barnum this August. The two will teach kids aged 9-12 a variety of instruments including violin, guitar, percussion as well as voice.

The camp will run for five days which have yet to be confirmed. For more information e-mail greenotejack@hotmail.com.