By Catherine Twing, Contributing Writer
Grafton – Only 70 musicians earned the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall Nov. 16 as part of the Royal Conservatory of Music Showcase.
Among them was Grafton Middle School seventh-grader and Apple Tree Arts (ATA) student Elena Baker.
Baker earned this honor by excelling at the level two voice examination of the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) Certificate Program. Additionally she earned State Certificate of Excellence, which is awarded to the student who receives the highest marks in their discipline and level.
“I’ve been doing music my whole life,” Baker said.
There are videos of her singing when she was 4 years old, but it wasn’t until she was 8 that she started attending ATA.
Now she sings in groups and takes private voice lessons with her teacher, Alaina Calloway Bolton, who told the Baker family about the examination.
ATA began offering the examination just one year ago to challenge and prepare students, but the process is very common around the world.
“Music exams are the standard in Canada, Australia, and the UK, but are relatively new in the U.S.,” said Calloway Bolton. “They’re a wonderful way of ensuring students are well-rounded and thoroughly prepared for future studies.”
The exam requires the student to learn two prepared pieces, as well as perform sight reading, scales and other technical elements.
Colloway Bolton has had students participate in the examinations since 2011 and immediately recognized Baker’s talent and passion.
“It was clear that she was both gifted and motivated, so I wanted to be sure to get her involved in the RCM program to ensure that she has all the tools she needs to be successful, both short and long term,” she explained.
Baker’s passions include singing, dancing and theater. She attends dance in Franklin three times a week, singing lessons at ATA three times a week, as well as musical theater productions at ATA.
“I’m never at home,” Baker said of her busy schedule.
The trip to New York City was exciting for the whole family and included a visit Times Square and the Broadway musical “Hadestown” before the performance at Carnegie Hall.
“It was a great experience,” Baker said. “The hall is beautiful. It felt very special that so many great performers have performed there.”
Her mother, Graciela Vargas-Baker realizes this was a rare opportunity.
“Not many 12-year-olds get to perform in places where huge artists have performed,” Vargas-Baker said. “I’m very proud of her being able to accomplish this at such a young age.”
Her father, Alan Baker, was proud to see his daughter’s hard work pay off.
“It’s quite an accomplishment to perform somewhere with such history,” he said. “When I saw her perform I just felt super proud of what she has done so far, and what she has chosen to do as far as prove her abilities and talents. It’s special to see her work hard at something and succeed.”
While performing is a huge part of her life, school is still top priority.
“Our requirement of her is that she does well in school and puts effort in, and shows us that she can handle all that she does,” her mother noted.
Baker wants to show other young musicians that they can achieve anything with hard work.
“My goal is to be on Broadway,” she said. “That’s what I’ve really been working toward…”