Kwalikum Secondary School student Katie Kershaw started playing the piano at the tender age of five, and although that was some time ago she does have some fleeting memories of those lessons.
“I just remember playing Lego at my piano teacher’s house,” she laughed.
That was 10 years ago. Katie is now at the Grade 8 Royal Conservatory level and was selected this year to represent the Junior Piano category for the Nanaimo-mid Island area at the Provincial Performing Arts festival in Kamloops this June.
This was thanks to her outstanding performance at the Upper Island Music Festival in Nanaimo in February where she won first place in all four of her classes and was invited to perform at the Honours Performance. There she was presented with the Canadian Composers bursary and the BC Registered Music Teachers bursary.
Katie’s mother Lynette said she knew from the start that Katie had a strong bond with the piano.
“If we were away on vacation and we came back home, one of the first things she would do was run to the piano. Not to her toys or upstairs, right to the piano. So we sort of knew right from the get-go that was really a passion for her.”
Katie’s piano teacher in Port Alberni told Lynette early on that Katie had perfect pitch — the ability to produce or identify a tone perfectly without any reference to an outside source. This was very rare, she said. Then, when Katie composed her own song in Grade 3, her parents were pretty sure there was something special happening.
“From an early age she just had an aptitude for it, and she just really enjoyed it,” Lynette said.
Today Katie practices for about one to two hours per day, and has consistently achieved first class honours in her piano exams.
Besides piano she also finds time for singing in KSS’ vocal jazz group, the concert choir and playing the flute in the concert band. She was also on the basketball team and to top it all off she also finds time for her school work and maintains straight As.
She said it’s becoming more of a struggle as she gets older to find time for all of these activities, but her love for the piano has remained unwavering. When asked, she wasn’t sure what exactly it was about the piano that has captivated her for so many years, and driven her to excel at her pieces, but stated it simply:
“I like the way it sounds and how much you can do with it,” she shrugged.
She likes performing too, she said, at concerts and recitals, and she enjoys competing. Katie attributes much of her success to her piano teacher Faye Smith, whom she has been with for six years, and said support from her family and friends has also helped her achieve success. She’s still unsure if she’ll pursue a post secondary education in music or become a professional pianist, but at this point, the sky’s the limit.
For now she’ll continue having fun doing what she loves and is looking forward to competing in provincials in June, she said.
“I’m excited. It will be a fun trip away. It will let me see all the different competition out there in B.C.”