Conservatory director, students earn awards


Mount Royal Conservatory Director Paul Dornian (right) and award-winning cellist Mari Coetzee earned top prizes from the Royal Conservatory of Music Nov. 2.
Mount Royal Conservatory Director Paul Dornian (right) and award-winning cellist Mari Coetzee earned top prizes from the Royal Conservatory of Music Nov. 2.

Mount Royal Conservatory Director Paul Dornian is now a Fellow of The Royal Conservatory of Music in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the arts and achievements in the field of music education.

And teenage cello sensation Mari Coetzee has won the RCM’s national gold medal for cello performance, thanks to earning the highest exam marks in Canada.

The awards were presented in Calgary Sunday, Nov. 2 during the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Convocation ceremony at Calgary’s Telus Convention Centre.

Dornian, who has served as Conservatory director for 22 years, is a well-respected arts leader and has served on the boards of many local institutions, including the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Calgary Arts Development Authority and within Mount Royal University.

He is responsible for implementing many pioneering programs that have elevated the Conservatory to international status. Projects include the expansion of the Academy for Gifted Youth, Feast of Sound & Song, Morningside Music Bridge international summer training school and festival, and, of course, the Bella Concert Hall and new Conservatory building opening next fall.

“In Canada, we’ve all grown up with musical roots in the RCM examination system,” said Dornian. “When I was a child the exam system remained but the performance training aspect of the RCM had lost some of its luster. Over the past 30 years it has been exciting to watch the RCM, under the visionary direction of their President, Peter Simon, recover their status as a great music performance school. I am touched and honored to be receiving an award from this important cultural organization that is such a part of our cultural identity.”

In his speech to Calgary and southern Alberta music students gathered Sunday, Dornian said studying music demands great commitment, but returns much more.

“Music makes you a better person and makes the world a better place,” he said.

Past recipients of this award include Oscar Peterson, Robertson Davies, Adrienne Clarkson, Teresa Stratas, Michael and Sonja Koerner, and Leon Fleisher.

After completing two degrees in Clarinet Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, Dornian began teaching clarinet at Mount Royal Conservatory and eventually became manager of general programs and finally director.

After several successful years at the helm of Western Canada’s largest performing arts education institution, Dornian returned to university to complete his Master of Business Administration degree. His skills and results in fundraising have come to the fore, affording the Conservatory continued financial stability at a time when many arts organizations have struggled.

Award-winning Mount Royal Conservatory student Mari Coetzee, 16, is the recipient of the RCM 2014 National Gold Medal for Violoncello Performance. She recently completed an Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto (ARCT) Diploma with first-class honours with distinction. She earned the gold medal for the highest national mark for all cello ARCT exams across Canada.

“I am thrilled to receive this award. I have been doing Royal Conservatory of Music cello, piano, theory, harmony, and music history exams since I was eight years old,” said Coetzee, who has been playing cello since age five.

“For me, this is a great way to graduate from the RCM. I’ve learned so much about music through the preparation and completion of these exams. This year I am in Mount Royal’s Advanced Performance Program and finishing grade 12. I am looking forward to studying for my music degree at the university level next year.”

Coetzee has been studying with Mount Royal Conservatory’s renowned cello instructor John Kadz.

“In all my many years of teaching I have seldom had a student like Mari whom I have now taught for seven years,” said Kadz. “Her determination, dedication, intelligence, discipline and pure hard work stand out and are the reasons she is the fine young cellist she has become.”

Sherri Zickefoose, Nov. 3, 2014


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