Many musicians spend a lot of time on the road. Ciara Hager is getting a taste of that… and she’s still in high school.
Hager is the violinist who was just awarded the Medicine Hat Rotary Music Festival’s top prize, The Rose Bowl. It’s an honour she shares with the Medicine Hat College Girls’ Choir.
This illustrious success hasn’t been without its significant sacrifices. “Since I live in Medicine Hat, I drive to Calgary about every second week to attend the program, and stay from Saturday until Monday night.” she explains. “Mr. Van der Sloot offers me two 1.5 hour lessons while I am there, to make up for two weeks of lessons,” she says. An accommodation that, according to her violin instructor Bill van der Sloot, is well worth the effort. “On the outside,” he states, “one would question the immense sacrifice that Ciara and her parents make so that she can participate in MRU’s programs. But, when one becomes familiar with the great love, hard work, and huge growth and achievement that has taken place, it is all well worth the investment!”
Aside from the highway time, Hager is committed to the craft, “I try to practice a minimum of three hours everyday regardless of anything else I have going on in my life.” To earn the coveted prize, she played the Concerto in E minor by Julius Conus. “I love the concerto, and feel like it really shows off the talents specific to my playing.”
With poise, she describes the victory, “I am honoured to have my name put on the trophy, along with all of the other talented performers who won it before me, including my instructor, Bill van der Sloot. It’s really exciting to know that the future winners will look back on the trophy and notice my name on it as well.
Van der Sloot agrees, “It’s like the Stanley Cup…it gets taller and taller as year go by. If Ciara’s name is at the bottom of the trophy, you can find mine somewhere near the top! That’s pretty cool for both Ciara and me.”
Despite the dedication, it was only recently that she started looking at the violin as a career choice. “I wasn’t sure of my decision until about a year ago.”
That decision was shaped, in part, by the Academy Program at MRU Conservatory. Hager paints the picture, “I play in the program with so many other talented musicians, and it’s interesting to see how they overcome their struggles and how I can apply their improvements to my own playing.” She also mentions the positive reaction she has received from her Academy colleagues at this recent win, “We are all really supportive of each other.” She admits.
On the horizon, she’s excited for a masterclass with visiting Wyatt Series artist James Ehnes and another year in the Academy program.“I’m looking forward to focusing completely on music without the additional pressures of high school.” Beyond that, the road ahead hasn’t been charted, “I would love to teach violin, or to be part of an orchestra. I always listen to the orchestra parts and the different instruments showcased in movies, and could picture myself doing something like that.”
And for those who are not as far down the musical road, “I would advise them not to give up even if they don’t succeed at first. If violin is something that they enjoy, performing as much as possible will lead to success.”
Success can seem like a long road, but Hager is certainly well on her way.