Rashaan Allwood Scores 100% On The Piano
Eighteen-year-old Rashaan Allwood played through a one-hour piano exam of borque classical, romantic, impressionist and 20th century music with such precision that enthralled adjudicators gave him a perfect score.
The son of a Jamaican Filmore Allwood, Rashaan has won medals at every level since 2002, but this performance at the highest level of the Royal Conservatory in Canada was astonishing.
The Toronto Star reported that Allwood’s “perfect 100” set the music fraternity abuzz in January, when he received the national gold medal as Canada’s top student sitting an exam for the world-renowned Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto (ARCT) diploma.
Rashaan received his gold medal at Koerner Hall on Bloor St on January 13.
The first-year University of Toronto piano performance student even surprised himself with what a conservatory spokesman calls a “very, very, very rare” achievement.
“When I saw the score I didn’t believe it, so I called them to confirm it,” Allwood told the Star. “It seemed unfathomable.”
The conservatory, which holds 100,000 exams a year, confirmed his brilliance.
“It felt really, really amazing,” said the Mississauga resident. “I think they were saying, ‘you have the potential to be really, really good. This is our way of giving you a boost.’ It’s something to encourage me to work even harder than before; not to be cocky.”
The honour confirmed everything Filmore Allwood and wife Joyce envisioned for their son, and his brother Yannick, since the parents left Jamaica.
Acclaimed pianist Jean Desmarais said Rashaan’s performance of Chopin’s Fantasy in F Minor broke new ground. He had never envisioned the composition could be played that way, “but not only did Rashaan do it, he convinced me,” he added.
“He’s going to be a star,” said audience member Ann Luu, watching the performance with more than casual interest. She’d donated a scholarship to the winner and was ecstatic at what she had heard.
Rashaan and Yannick started piano lessons about 12 years ago. (Yannick is studying piano performance and actuarial science at University of Western Ontario. Rashaan received a full scholarship and wants to become a concert pianist and music teacher.)
Teacher Anna Fomina has taught hundreds of students in Moscow and the Mississauga School of Music over 40 years. “Rashaan is the most talented,” she says.
He lives the music, embodies it and makes it his own. And he’s not afraid to capture the emotion of a composition and deliver it to the heart of the listener.
“Most students have talent, but they understand the music with their head so they play like a computer, a machine; Rashaan feels with his heart, so he touches people’s hearts,” says Fomina.
Rashaan credits this to the effort he takes to understanding what the composer was going through as he created the music. The technical skills honed over a grueling practice regimen — he’s at U of T at 7:00 am most days and doesn’t get home till late — are important in that they allow him the freedom to inhabit the musical score without being distracted by technical obstacles.
His gold medal performance demanded he play five works of contrasting styles. For an hour he played Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel and Prokofiev, plus Russian composer Moszkowski.
The two adjudicators thanked him for his “uninterrupted excitement” and “virtuosic fluency.”
“Your abundant musical talent allowed you to surpass the technical and musical challenges which were presented to you in this very fine, challenging programme. We enjoyed hearing you and wish you the best in your continued studies.”