CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – When snowstorm “Nemo” visited Chappaqua Saturday, most grade-schoolers could be found in Gedney Park on a sled. Not nine-year-old Chappaqua resident Erica Lauren Dunne.
She was in New York City at Carnegie Hall accepting a 2012 Certificate of Excellence from the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program for scoring the top marks on her Preparatory A Piano assessment.
“A certificate of excellence is an exceptional distinction – the result of a student’s hard work, dedication, and talent – and a testament to the skill and creativity of the recipient,” said Angela Elster, vice president, academic at The Royal Conservatory. “Certificate winners represent a national standard of music achievement upheld by support from teachers and parents of music students across America.”
The award recognizes students each academic year, by state, who have obtained the highest marks for performance assessments in each instrument and preparatory level. A student needs to score at least 80 percent on the assessment to be considered for the awards.
Dunne scored a 93 on her assessment.
“The award came as a surprise,” said Dunne, a fourth-grader at Westorchard Elementary School in Chappaqua. “When I entered the Royal Conservatory achievement program, I wasn't looking for an award. I only did it to see what level I was at in piano and what I could improve on.”
Dunne was joined Saturday by fellow winners, which included 11 students from Connecticut, ranging in age 6-15, 14 students from New Jersey, ages 8-12, and 24 students from New York, ages 7-17.
She was not shy to pick their brains.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I loved going back stage and hearing all the performers before me. I got to talk to interesting fellow musicians, and, best of all, hear their wonderful work and the challenges they thought they had in their pieces.”
When it was her turn, Dunne performed her favorite piece called “Spooks” by composer Clifford Poole.
“I loved playing on the stage of Carnegie Hall to the audience on the wonderful Steinway grand piano,” she said. “I love that piece because it has a lot of feelings and emotions that you have to play, in addition to the technical part of it.”
Having only been playing the piano for three-and-half years, Dunne credits her piano teacher, Alice Finger of Mount Kisco, and her mother, Suzanne Chazin, for her accelerated growth as a musician.
“My piano teacher is the biggest influence for me,” she said. “She has really helped me understand the basics of piano and given me a joy of playing it. My mom was also an influence because before I started playing, I loved to hear her play.”
Even though Dunne still is basking in the glow of her award, it does not sound like the recognition will go to her head anytime soon.
“What I love most about piano is when I hear a great piece, I just want to rush home and learn how to play it,” she said.