Life is moving along nicely for Saanich’s Amber Dayton.
Three weeks into the school semester, the 18-year-old is still trying to memorize her schedule at the Victoria Conservatory of Music.
Class times aside, the piano-playing Dayton is loving being enrolled in the conservatory’s diploma in music performance.
She made the jump straight from Claremont secondary, where she graduated in June. However, despite scoring near straight A’s at Claremont, it wasn’t a given that Dayton would be able to jump into post secondary.
Dayton grew up with her brother and her mom in the Glanford neighbourhood. Things were fine until a couple of years ago when substance abuse and mental health issues slowly grew in the home.
“It’s not until we were removed from the home that I realized the situation wasn’t normal, life creeps up bit by bit,” Dayton said.
Dayton began to carry anxiety and depression issues that threatened her school studies and weighed on her quality of life. She and her brother were taken in by family friends in Royal Oak where she spent her Grade 12 year and continues to reside. While she was at Claremont, Dayton enrolled in some of her courses through SD63’s Individual Learning Centre in Saanichton.
In the face of whatever issues she’s encountered, Dayton has been determined to succeed in her education and keep as many “academic doors open” as she could.
“The ILC made things easier, I could take precalculus without having to worry about deadlines, I could focus on it when I wasn’t quite so busy at Claremont,” she said.
Like many teens in their senior high school year, Dayton sat down in the winter to measure what she really wanted to do in her immediate future. She’s an accomplished pianist in level 10 of the Royal Conservatory of Music’s piano program, but hadn’t yet realized she could start her post-secondary education at VCM.
She applied for multiple grants, the District Fine Arts scholarship, $1,250; the District Education scholarship, $500; and her biggest, one of the Coast Capital Saving’s Youth Get it Awards, worth $2,500. She qualified for the latter award by boasting a high GPA, while overcoming challenges. She also works part time in a Broadmead restaurant.
The money allowed her to start at VCM, and she hopes to transfer after the two-year diploma is complete, possibly to Capilano College for the musical therapy program.
“I always wanted to dedicate myself to music even before I started the piano [six years ago],” Dayton said. “I love it here, you can connect with the instructor and you get a lot out of the small classes.”
In addition to having an increased focus on her classical piano training, Dayton is also exploring classical singing, though there’s a long way to go with that, she admits.