Sienna Longo plays the piano in her music room.  James Snell/The Free Press

Sienna Longo plays the piano in her music room. James Snell/The Free Press

Fernie teen strikes high note with the Royal Conservatory

The musical journey has been a steady effort for Longo, who has had the same teacher, Sophia Hoffman, since childhood.

Fernie’s Sienna Longo has won the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) Gold Medal for Level 8 voice in B.C. and the Yukon.

The humble and down to earth 17-year-old, who plans on becoming a medical doctor, endured and conquered a rigorous practical examination in addition to years of diligent effort.

Examiner Bel Piacere described Longo’s voice as “Beautiful, large and strong with much control and maturity. Great clarity, excellent diction with a dramatic performance presence that was totally committed and thoroughly convincing with an excellent command of German and French.”

“I like music because it’s fun,” said Longo. “I get to use it a lot in everything that I do, because I do theatre and teach music lessons as well,” the straight ‘A’ grade 12 student said. “It’s a good way to express yourself.”

Longo is reflective about her music achievements.

“I did the Royal Conservatory of Music exams, and I received the gold medal for B.C. and the Yukon for having the highest mark out of the grade eight voice exam participants,” she explained. “It’s an adjudicator, and they sit in the front row of whatever venue you’re doing [the exam] at. You have a pianist and there’s books for each grade, and you have to select five songs at this level. There’s requirements for different musical eras, and you have to sing it for them. Then they grade you on those. Then you have to prepare two opera requirements, then you have scales, sight singing and quote identification.”

Longo was surprised to win the award.

“I just came home for volleyball practice one day and my mom was like ‘guess what,’ so that was exciting. It felt really nice. I worked really hard for it.”

The musical journey has been a steady effort for Longo, who has had the same teacher, Sophia Hoffman, since childhood.

“I skipped prep A and prep B, and I did my grade one exam when I was six,” she said. “So I’ve been moving up doing a new [grade] almost every year. And along with the singing, once you get to a certain level, you have to start doing written theory exams. Harmonies, chords – the way music is made, and music history is tied into it as well. The RCM motto is ‘The finest instrument is the mind.’

Longo’s parents have been very supportive.

“They like watching me sing, and always take me to practices,” she explained. “They come to watch all my concerts.”

Longo intends to study health sciences in university, and maybe teach music professionally. In 10 years, she hopes to be a graduated medical doctor working on her residency.

“I would like to go to medical school at McGill,” she said. “If that doesn’t work out, there are a lot of other ones in the country. Mostly McGill, though, because they have – it’s kind of gross – the biggest cadaver lab. Every discipline that has to do with human biology gets to use the cadavers, even people with a bachelors of physical education get to use the cadavers. So it’s pretty cool – kind of gross – but cool.”

Sienna’s dad, Frank, is beaming with pride.

“She’s been doing her levels one at a time, and now she’s at level 8,” the engineer with Teck Resources said. “She’s very modest. I felt it was really special, because she won the top marks in all of B.C. and the Yukon for her grade level 8. I looked at the comments that her adjudicators wrote that led to her mark. I wasn’t even aware that she was performing at that level. She’s very good, but that really surprised me.”

Frank said that he’s impressed with his daughter’s quality of character.

“She doesn’t like to promote herself or advocate for herself,” he said. “She likes to keep these things private. And she plays the piano, too, and teaches the guitar. She likes to help people, and has that mentality.”