Sarah Wilke’s love of singing and dedication to learning and improving is paying off.
The 15-year-old Ladysmith resident recently won a Gold Medal for scoring the top mark in B.C. on the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) Grade 6 Voice examination.
Wilke takes private voice lessons with Iris Cooke-Chislett, who lives in Mill Bay.
Regional Gold Medals are awarded each academic year (Sept. 1 to Aug. 31) to Conservatory examination candidates in Preparatory A and B and Grades 1 to 10 who achieve the highest mark in their respective province or designated region. Eligible candidates must score at least 80 per cent on their practical examination and must have completed the co-requisite theory examinations for their respective grade and discipline.
Wilke says she was pretty surprised but very happy when she found out she’d earned a Gold Medal for Grade 6 Voice.
“I worked very hard on those pieces that I did for my exam, and I guess I just had a good singing day that day; I sang pretty well, so I’m happy about it,” she said.
Wilke has taken most of her RCM Voice exams so far, except Grade 2 and Grade 4, and she is currently working on Grade 7.
When Wilke was younger, her mother taught piano, and her students took the RCM exams, so when Wilke started taking voice lessons, she already knew about the organization and she started taking the exams.
Wilke started singing with a choir in Nanaimo when she was seven and began taking solo vocal lessons when she was 10.
“I’ve always loved singing ever since I was younger, and I just asked my mom if I could taking singing lessons because I love to sing,” she said.
She says what she loves about singing is the chance to become the character in the song.
“When I sing a piece, I sing a lot of classical and sometimes musical theatre, and you take the character in the song, immerse yourself in the song and be who that character is,” she said. “I also love to share music with others.”
When it comes to singing, Wilke does have her favourites.
“I love singing a lot of folk songs — I really like the style of them,” she said. “I like singing in Italian and German — I like singing the languages and the sound of it. A lot of Italian songs are more dramatic; it’s fun to sing like that. When my teacher gives me an Italian piece to sing, she says ‘sing this like you’re Italian!’”
Wilke feels that going through the RCM examination process is very educational.
“When I do an exam, they mark me for technique and my approach to the song, and they give me tips about how I can improve the piece,” she said.
The RCM goes up to Grade 10, and Wilke says that although she isn’t quite sure at this point, she does hope to get her Grade 10 Voice.
“I’m not sure if I’d do anything career-wise with my music, but I think it will always be part of my life and I’ll keep singing and playing piano,” she said. “I also sing for my church, so I think I’d continue to do that as well.”
Wilke, who was born in Winnipeg and has lived in Ladysmith since she was three and a half or four years old, is home schooled and enrolled with Traditional Learning Academy Online, which is based in Vancouver. When she is not singing and playing piano, she likes to hike and backpack, and she also plays soccer and basketball with her friends. Wilke is also an avid reader, and she likes to write.