Emily Braganza’s list of musical accolades sure glimmers.
The 16-year-old former Red Deer resident won a gold medal from the Royal Conservatory of Music for scoring 87 out of 100 on the Level 9 violin exam, the top mark in Alberta.
This was Braganza’s third gold medal as a violinist. She holds two other gold medals from vocal exams.
Despite her previous success, Braganza said she found the exam nerve-racking.
The test took about 45 minutes, where she played her scales, studies, sonatas and concertos. There was also sightreading as well as an ear exam. The main part of the exam was the show piece, Braganza said.
“It’s hard because you only get one chance during the exam to play it how you want to play it,” she said.
For that part, it’s not enough to just play the music. Braganza said the examiner was also looking for “musicality.” That is, taking the composer’s directions from the sheet music and performing it in a way that evokes the intended emotions.
“You have to take the music and you have to make it personal,” she said. “If it starts very soft, legato, you know it could be calm, it could be sad, it could be relaxing, it could be sympathetic.”
One of her methods is to draw from a personal experience that matches the music and letting that guide her performance.
Braganza’s show piece was Tchaikovsky’s Melodie.
David Lakirovich, who plays first violin for the Calgary Philharmonic, is her teacher and said this was a significant achievement for his student.
“Seeing how difficult it is and how many components there are in the exam, it’s very hard to be successful across all (of them),” he said. “She’s incredibly intuitive and talented on the violin. She picks things up very quickly. Anything I tell her, she does with minimum amount of effort.”
Braganza grew up in Red Deer attending St. Francis of Assisi Middle School but now attends Bishop Carroll High School in Calgary for its self-directed learning program.
Being able to set her own timetable comes in handy. Braganza’s practice routine takes about three hours each day, divided between violin, piano and voice.
She also plays with the Calgary Youth Orchestra, the school chamber choir and string ensemble.
“You have to have time-management and organization skills otherwise you will fall behind,” she said.
Next month, Braganza will be taking her Grade 8 vocal exam. In June, she’s going for her ARCT teacher’s diploma in piano.
She has not decided if she’ll pursue music as a career, saying that law is another one of her interests.