SSO conductor raves about young Island pianist

Carter Johnson has returned home from the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Associations’ National Piano Competition in Regina with arms full of awards.

Carter Johnson has returned home from the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Associations’ National Piano Competition in Regina with arms full of awards.

Chosen as B.C.’s representative, the outstanding Campbell River pianist has a string of accomplishments and awards that are all the more impressive considering he is only 14.

Seasoned indeed.

Beginning piano lessons at age five, and ever championed by his Gabriola Island grandmother, Lorna Davison, Carter represented the North Island at the provincial competition for six consecutive years.

He won first place at the 2009 Junior Canadian Provincial competition, and first in both the Ruth Scott Chopin Competition and the prestigious Virginia Graczak Competition in 2010. In 2011, Johnson won first place in the Intermediate Canadian Competition.

That same year, he then went on to win the Strathcona Symphony Orchestra’s Concerto Competition, sponsored by Balfe Somers Wealth Management of RBC Dominion Securities.

SSO maestro Pippa Williams was enthusiastic in describing Carter Johnson.

“We were so excited to work with this fine young musician,” she said. “In his audition, his joie de vivre really came out … his personality shone in his outstanding performance. Clearly he showed us not only musical mastery, but that he loved what he was doing. We’re very fortunate, as an orchestra, to have his perspectives as a soloist, his professionalism, and his positive attitude.”

The Canadian Federation of Music Teachers encompasses all provinces and the Yukon, with a membership of approximately 3,500. The CFMTA’s mission is to “promote musical excellence through the many workshops, master classes and musical events held by our member provinces/territories and our branches throughout Canada.”

For the CFMTA’s biannual National Piano Competition event, one competitor from each Canadian province is chosen. Representatives must be students of Registered Music Teachers and must be 24 or under.

In this year’s competition, only three competitors — one from Saskatchewan, one from Alberta, and one from British Columbia — advanced to the final round. Each contestant played for 45 minutes.

After playing pieces by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and Hétu in the semi-final round, Carter played Alberto Ginastera’s Suite de Danzas Criollas, Op. 15, Chopin’s Scherzo No. 2, Op. 31 and Ballade, Op., 118, No. 3 by Johannes Brahms in the final round.

Adjudicators Christine Vanderkooy, James Parker, and Kathleen Lohrenz Gable awarded the 2011 National Piano Competition’s second place (with a prize of $3,000) to Johnson.

He was also awarded the $1,000 Willard Schultz prize for best performance of a baroque composition.

“I was just beaming inside,” enthused Johnson. “I was proud and felt blessed to do so well. Grandma gave me the biggest hug — ever!”

His teacher, Shelly Roberts, beamed.

A highlight of the July competition was for each finalist to join the string members of the internationally acclaimed Gryphon Trio — Analee Patipatanakoon on violin and Roman Borys on cello — for a performance of Canadian composer David McIntyre’s Piano Trio No. 1.

McIntyre adjudicated the finalists’ presentation of his trio and chose Johnson as the winner for the Best Performance of the Piano Trio, awarding him a prize of $500. “You took lots of interpretive risks with my trio,” McIntyre told Carter, “and they paid off!”

What’s next for this talented young musician?

“I’ll continue to play and teach,” said Johnson, “and then of course school is only going to get busier. I hope to enter the Canadian Music Competition next year. The preliminary and semi-final rounds for B.C. take place in Vancouver and the location of the national final changes every year.”

The next CFMTA National Piano Competition will be held in July 2013 in Halifax. Carter Johnson will be 16. Want to bet he’ll be a finalist?

 

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