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It was at the end of high school that Kirsten Jones quit playing piano. She had enjoyed her lessons as child, and even obtained Royal Conservatory Grade 8 before giving it up. “I just wanted to party,” she says. “I didn’t even think about piano again until I was 29.”
It was then that a personal tragedy led Kirsten to rekindle her passion for music, and start a new life chapter in the process.
As a kid, Kirsten was especially fond of her piano teacher, a kind and eccentric young woman known for big jewellery, heavy makeup, and long fingernails. “She just ‘clack-clack-clacked’ along on the keys!” remembers Kirsten. “But she played unbelievable stuff. She let me see that you could still play classical piano and be a bit of a rebel.”
In 2013, Kirsten learned that her piano teacher had been murdered in her hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. After recovering from the initial shock, Kirsten says the news prompted her to buy a digital piano and take up playing again, as a tribute.
“I fell right back in love with it,” she says. Over the next few years, Kirsten worked through all her old piano books. She then decided to quit her job as a copywriter and pursue music full-time at Vancouver Community College (VCC).
“I really just applied here because it was close,” she says. “But then I came in for an info session and I loved the people.” When it came to the classical music industry, Kirsten says she always felt like an outsider, but not at VCC. “It felt more inclusive than other music programs.”
Now finished her first year of VCC’s two-year music diploma program, Kirsten looks back at a rewarding but also very demanding time. “It’s a really intense program,” she says. “You’re taught and critiqued by some of the top musicians in the country. I practiced more than I ever had in my life, and learned a lot about the importance of posture, technique, and moderation."
Thanks to her experiences at VCC, Kirsten has also discovered some new career paths that don’t necessarily lead to the classical music stage.
Kirsten already works with at-risk youth in her neighbourhood, and has seen first-hand the benefits of music therapy. “Sometimes they don’t feel like talking. Instead, you just bang on a drum or write a song. You use rhythm and melody to fill the void.”
With one year left in her diploma program, and now in her mid-thirties, Kirsten is eager to see what the next few years will bring.
“I’m starting a new story,” she says. “I may feel old. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but I don’t want to look back and think, ‘I wasn’t old! Why didn’t I just do it?’”
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