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Saanich teen pianist heads to provincial competition

Fifteen-year-old Keaton Ollech sits at a grand piano in the Victoria Conservatory of Music, where he
Fifteen-year-old Keaton Ollech sits at a grand piano in the Victoria Conservatory of Music, where he's been training since he was eight years old. Ollech will perform in the Provincial Piano Competition in North Vancouver this weekend after he qualified for by winning the Mary Adamson Young Artist competition for Vancouver Island.
— image credit: Travis Paterson/News staff

For the first round of the Provincial Piano Competition on Saturday, Saanich’s Keaton Ollech will start with Beethoven’s Sonata No. 7 in D major, Op. 10, No. 3.

Once he’s broken the ice, the 15-year-old Saanich phenom will then progress to a Chopin scherzo in B-flat minor as he competes in the B.C. Piano Competition against seven others this weekend in North Vancouver.

“I enjoy competition performance, it helps you practice, and helps you reach breakthroughs,” says Ollech, a Grade 11 student at Glenlyon Norfolk School. He enjoys judged performances as they help motivate his rehearsals, he says.

In layman’s terms, the kid can play anything, but he’s always reaching for the next level.

Earlier this year, Ollech qualified for the provincial competition when he won the regional Mary Adamson Young Artist Competition in Victoria.

If he wins the provincial award, organized by the B.C. Registered Music Teacher’s Association, Ollech will move on to compete with exclusive company for a national prize.

“The second round, I’ll play the scherzo again, Sonatine by Maurice Ravel, and In Memorium to the Victims of Chernobyl by Canadian Larysa Kuzmenko. I’m indebted to the BCRMTA for the chance to play at this level,” he says.

There’s no hesitation when instructor May Ling Kwok confirms that Ollech, her youngest student, is among the strongest piano players in Victoria.

“He is an exceptional boy and student, a pleasure to work with,” said Kwok, who’s been at the Victoria Conservatory of Music for 30 years. “It’s a lot of commitment, hard work and dedication to do what he’s done.”

Ollech showed an early interest in the piano and accomplished the Grade 4 level as an eight year old. That’s when his tutorship with Kwok began at the Conservatory.

(Photo inset: Ollech with May Ling Kwok)


With Kwok’s seasoned coaching, Ollech excelled.

Last year, he finished the 10th and final grade of the Association of Royal Conservatory of Toronto piano performance, practical and theory curriculum, which is Canada’s standard. He hit a couple of gold and silver medals along the way, including a 100 per cent mark in the history component of the curriculum, top amongst B.C. students.

He can sightread the richest musical scores. For Ollech, it’s a matter of working with Kwok to understand the feel of the movements.

“There’s always room to grow and I’m always working to discover the music,” he says.

Ollech has already narrowed his post secondary focus to music. The Glenn Gould School at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music, Juilliard School (New York), Peabody Institute (Baltimore) and the University of Toronto are his leading choices, and it seems he’s well on his way to achieving his dream.

 

reporter@saanichnews.com

 

 

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