Piano instructor Jean Fischer has taught 16-year-old Monica McPhee music for about seven years. The teen’s hard work is paying off as she just received 100 per cent in her advanced theory rudiments exam from The Royal Conservatory of Music.

The keys to success

Jean Fischer has been teaching piano in Trail for 50 years and has found a gifted student in Monica McPhee.

“Just take it from here dear,” piano teacher Jean Fischer says as she interrupts her student with words of advice and often wisdom.

The Glenmerry resident has been teaching piano in Trail for over 50 years, through marriage, three children and everything in between.

“You don’t have to be crazy but it helps,” laughs Fischer, an Associate of The Royal Conservatory.

“Music was always important in my life but now it’s my lifeline.”

The 90-year-old woman lives alone now in her home, where she intends to stay. Her piano is the heart of her home and the music played there tells many stories.

Time again she comes across a gifted pianist, one she watches flourish from a young age into early adulthood; much like Monica McPhee, a 16-year-old girl who has studied under Fischer for about seven years.

The Grade 11 J. L. Crowe Secondary School student just received 100 per cent in her advanced theory rudiments exam from The Royal Conservatory of Music, a rare feet that Fisher has only witnessed once before.

“She’s really a very remarkable girl,” said Fischer. “She has the temperament for it; not all students have an examination temperament.”

McPhee has received first-class honours in all of her graded piano examinations and is currently preparing for a Grade 8 piano exam.

Her love for music keeps her committed but good feedback does help along the way.

“My dad and I looked it up on the computer because I thought ‘it’s been six weeks, they should have posted it by now’ and we looked and it was 100 per cent,” she recalled. “I was like ‘What, I’ve got to call Mrs. Fischer.’”

The piano instructor is like a “second grandmother” to McPhee, who is never one to complain about practice.

Her dad originally encouraged her to play piano but she has stuck with it over the years because she finds peace in music.

“Especially because our first semester of school just ended, I find when I play it sort of distracts me from the exams and such,” she said, “It’s very calming.”

Her “and such” is growing as she balances school with piano, karate, and her commitment to this year’s Trail Ambassador Program as Miss Kiwanis.

Most students leave piano as they get into their senior years of secondary school, said Fischer, while other have a hard time even getting started.

Piano takes self-discipline, added McPhee, but with it comes freedom.

“Listening to music and finding music you like is one thing but to be able to make music yourself is on a whole different level,” she said.

Working one-on-one is a tremendous privilege for Fischer, who admits she’s made mistakes along the way.

“I’ve ruined a lot of kids,” she laughed. “I’ve ruined them from piano that is and other things, too, probably.

“But I’ve learned from them; your students are your best teachers.”



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