ArtsTalk Blog - Rising Star: An Interview with Jaiden McDonald

Jaiden McDonald is a pianist, a piano teacher, and a grade 12 student. She has already completed her ARCT Performers with RCM, along with Elementary Pedagogy Level 1 - all while finishing her grade 11 year. We talked to Jaiden about her journey studying music and learned a lot about how studying piano can teach so much more than just the skill of playing an instrument.

What first sparked your interest in music?

My parents signed me up for piano lessons when I was five years old because they really saw the benefits of music education. I was a very routined kid, so I always just practiced the piano each day because it was part of my schedule, but I wouldn’t say that I actually started loving music until I got older. Around the age of twelve or thirteen, I started to really appreciate music more and I actually viewed it as fun. I got to go to the OMFA Provincials for the first time when I got to Grade 9 piano, and this was one of the experiences that really motivated me and helped my enjoyment of music to go to a deeper level.

Who has helped you in your music development over the years?

My parents were the reason that I started music lessons in the first place, and they continued to give me huge amounts of encouragement throughout the years. My mom attended every single performance and recital and really gave me the support that I needed to keep going. The best thing was that she never let me quit, even when I went through rough periods when I felt discouraged. I started taking lessons from Cheryl Graham when I turned eleven years old, and she really inspired me to love music and gave me a passion for it. Prior to this, music had always been sort of a “chore” that I just did everyday, but I didn’t start to really enjoy until she started teaching me. She always knew how to push me to give my best and she completely changed the way that I practiced, which helped me to really motivate me. I can definitely say that I would be nowhere near where I am without her!

What are the main challenges you have faced in getting where you are today? How did you overcome them?

One of my biggest challenges is that I am a bit of a perfectionist and when I was younger, it would always drive me crazy if I was practicing and felt like I was struggling with something or wasn’t getting something correct right away. Over time, I had to learn to accept that learning music was a process and it didn’t mean that I was a failure if I had struggles. I also had to let go of always trying to be “perfect”. When I feel discouraged, I try to look back at how far I have come rather than feeling frustrated about how far I still have to go. It definitely helped me to become a more patient person over time!

When did you know you wanted to pursue music at the professional level, (or at a more serious level rather than just casually)?

I think I first knew that I wanted to pursue music seriously when I started teaching. I got my first students when I was thirteen and it was such a neat experience to watch young children start to learn and enjoy playing music. It definitely inspired me in my own personal studies as well. I also attended the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy in Chicago in the summer of 2019, and it was so inspirational to be around all of those other music teachers, so that was one of the things that helped me to see that I wanted to do music long-term.

How many hours per week do you practice?

I currently spend about 2 hours a day actually practicing the piano, but I also spend about an hour a day working on the RCM ARCT History Course, and I am also working on the RCM Intermediate Pedagogy course, which also takes daily time. So I probably spend at least 25 hours a week studying music, which is not counting all of the hours that I spend teaching as well!

Why is music important to you?

Music is important to me because it has given me something to be passionate about and it always helps me to continue striving to do better. I love music because it is such a great way to express emotions and feelings. Taking music lessons from a young age has given me a sense of stability in my life, and it has also helped me to be focused and disciplined, so I think that has definitely impacted all aspects of my life for good. I honestly can’t imagine my life without music!

What are your plans for your future in music?

I completed my ARCT Performers with the RCM last year, along with my Elementary Pedagogy Level. I plan to spend the next several years working on the rest of my ARCT Teachers, and I hope to increase the number of students that I currently have so that I am eventually teaching full time over the next few years. I also love performing, so I am planning on starting the RCM Licentiate Diploma after I graduate high school.

What advice would you give a young musician who wants to pursue a higher level of music?

One thing that I would tell any young artist is that you should definitely be willing to do things that push yourself out of your comfort zone. When I was young, I was really shy and so the idea of doing things like performing in front of others really terrified me. Over time, the more I pushed myself to do these things, it definitely got easier and I’m really glad that I did.

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