Musical score 

Whistler piano student receives top honour in B.C. and Yukon

Lisa Nakajima has the highest grade 5 piano mark in B.C. and Yukon. Photo by Nicole Fitzgerald
  • Lisa Nakajima has the highest grade 5 piano mark in B.C. and Yukon. Photo by Nicole Fitzgerald

By Nicole Fitzgerald

Whistler’s Lisa Nakajima has Olympic dreams, but her figure skating didn’t glide the 11 year old to her first medal.

A lyrical hand flying effortlessly over the ivories led the young musician to the top honour, acknowledging her achievement of scoring the highest mark in Royal Conservatory of Music Grade 5 piano for B.C. and the Yukon.

The dedication and precision necessary to perfecting her craft becomes evident in the simple movements she makes while sitting down to her weekly piano lesson with Jana Marie Dupuis at the Whistler Music School of Excellence.

Lisa adjusts her chair, her reach to the piano, then lifts her hands, fingers curved, and places them on the ivories.

She breathes and sways forward as the notes of her favourite classical work by composer Muzio Clementi, his Sonatina in F Major, whisk away any nerves. The melody moves through peaks and valleys as Lisa demonstrates a talent for not only playing, but also performing and communicating her passion for classical music.

“Bright and musically directed,” wrote piano examiner Sandra Brewer of Lisa’s exam performance this June. “Well voiced and an accomplished performer… A very confident, spirited performance… A fine young musician. A pleasure to hear!”

The award came as a surprise. Dupuis decided not to tell Lisa about the award when taking her examinations, so when the news came last week Lisa was ecstatic. She will perform in a special award performance Saturday, Nov. 18 in Vancouver.

The Royal Conservatory of Music Grade 5 Practical Examination includes testing in technique, ear training, sight-reading, studies and classical pieces. Lisa received First Class Honours with Distinction in both the examination and theory program, scoring an outstanding 97 per cent.

Accolades are nothing new for the dedicated student who has studied with Dupuis for six years. Lisa received gold honours at the Howe Sound Music Festival the past two years.

The Spring Creek French immersion student is humble about her accomplishments, but talks with worldliness well beyond her years.

“When I start practising, I focus on that, and I forget about everything else,” she says. “I just love it that much.”

She practices four times a week and also assists Dupuis with the Music For Young Children program. When Lisa isn’t sitting at the piano or helping other aspiring pianists, she is at the ice skating rink at Meadow Park Sports Centre. The Whistler Skating Club competitive athlete skated even before she began piano, at the young age of five.

“She is very well balanced,” Dupuis said. “Her family supports her 100 per cent… She is very talented; she has the musical touch, but her hard work is why she does so well. She is an active listener. She really wants to learn.”

From the timid girl who didn’t want to get up and play at her first class concert, Lisa is becoming a seasoned veteran with Grade 6 performing piano and Grade 2 theory already underway.

“I wouldn’t have been able to get the award without Jana Marie,” Lisa added.


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