As an ambassador for the Limitless Campaign, Old Girl Ronée Boyce (Class of 1998) joined us on Thursday, January 25 to speak about her formative years at Havergal. As an Old Girl, she continues to derive inspiration from Havergal’s 1993-94 school year motto: HC's 3Ds--Dream, Dedication and Drive in her professional and personal life.
Having realized her dream of becoming a concert pianist, Ronée understood the true importance of having dedication and drive. During her guest performance, she also mentioned encountering disappointment, a fourth unexpected ‘D’, as she embarked on her career in the musical arts. “Life can sometimes throw unforeseen curve balls at you no matter who you are. But it’s how you handle disappointment that counts,” says Ronée.
For her, it was conquering these four ‘D’s, including disappointment, that fueled her success in the musical arts. Although she realized a dream held since age 3, she reminded students that it often takes time to discover our passions whether they lie within the areas of music, art, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or health and well-being. “The greatest thing about being a student at Havergal is that you are in the right environment to foster all of your interests, whichever life path you choose to take,” she says.
On her recent visit to the school, she expressed her gratitude to Havergal for keeping her connected to its musical arts circle over the years, as the school continues along its path of development. “The upcoming renovations will improve upon the resources students currently enjoy and will help them gain the best preparation for life ahead,” Ronée explains.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Ronée during her visit to learn more about her passion for the musical arts, as well as her thoughts on Havergal’s Music program:
Q: When did you first show an interest in music?
When I was a baby, I was told that my dad would often sing ‘The Sun Will Come Out’ from the musical Annie, and I would try to sing it back to him. At age three, my parents and I were at a shopping mall when we came across a pianist performing. It was the first time I had ever seen a piano and it struck a chord deeply within me. I knew I wanted to play the piano from that moment onward. So, perhaps music was always meant to play a role in my life!
Q: How did your time at Havergal contribute to your life-long dream of becoming a global concert pianist?
Havergal’s Music program helped me widen my scope of arts possibilities. I gained more opportunities to attend and perform concerts in prestigious Toronto arts venues and participated in local and international music festivals. Playing the violin in the school’s orchestral and double-quartet ensembles helped me learn to listen to music more carefully and become more sensitive to the balance between the different instruments.
Q: To support our growing Music program, we are planning to build acoustically superior classrooms and enhanced practice rooms in the Junior School. If Havergal had these facilities when you were a student, what would they have meant to you and your artistic development?
Whenever quality is improved upon, the end result is always stronger. When I was at Havergal, music classes were taught in portable classrooms. By improving the school’s current music facilities, hopefully students who wish to pursue a career in the arts will recognize Havergal for having a strong musical arts program, in addition to strong academics.
Q: Enhanced practice rooms will accommodate special visiting artists and encourage musical breakout sessions. How can experiential learning opportunities deepen students’ appreciation for the musical arts?
It is important for students to have as many opportunities as possible to be exposed to the arts – that is how they learn best. It also inspires them to think about their future and the different possibilities available to them. During my years as a Havergal student, the music tower, music portables and choir room were the only arts facilities. Havergal is already so much better equipped, and with the new facilities, I can’t even imagine how great everything will be after the renovations.
Q: Research has shown a direct link between cognitive growth and engagement in the musical arts. Do you feel there is a connection between music literacy, academic success and overall well-being?
Absolutely. Music has so many powerful benefits; it can improve language and memories, enhance creative thinking, unlock parts of the brain and be extremely therapeutic. By way of Neapolitan Connection, the Toronto-based classical concert series that I direct, I also organize the Minds on Music outreach program, which aims to connect people who have little access to music and the arts. Many schools in recent years have had their funding cut for music and arts, while others have removed arts programs from their curriculum altogether; it is such a terrible thing. The fact that Havergal is focused on making the school musically accessible through the Limitless Campaign is wonderful.
Q: What are the benefits of engaging students in the Music program, beyond obtaining a professional career as a musician?
Music is a vital part of everyday life and enjoyment. Even if students do not choose to pursue it professionally, music of all genres increases overall happiness, lifts the spirits and brings a smile to our faces.
Q: Are there career options in the music industry besides being a performer? What might those opportunities be?
Many different careers options exist such as teaching, conducting, musicology, music therapy, music composition, music clinician and music therapist. In addition to being a music pedagogue and clinician, I am also the artistic director of a Toronto-based classical concert series, which allows me to channel my creative energy in different ways by organizing, directing and developing innovative music productions.
Q: At Havergal, you performed at Prayers, with the choir and in music recitals. Since then, having played on stages around the world, where is your favourite place to perform?
I have found that each venue and audience tends to have its own particular personality. Acoustically, Carnegie Hall in New York is perfect. In Paris, I’ve experienced palpable connections and energy with my audiences. Whenever I perform there, I always feel that the audience is not only attending the concert, but that they really appreciate the art of the performance, regardless of their knowledge. I performed in Eurasia last year which was a completely different type of experience.
Q: How has your appreciation for music shaped who you are today beyond your profession?
Music is such an intrinsic part of who I am; it is hard to think of it as being a separate entity. Overall, I am confident that music, along with the structure and discipline it has given me in my life, has made me a better person and a more well-rounded individual. Without music in my life, I know that I would definitely be at a disadvantage.