An Interview with a talented FACE Graduate during the pandemic year

Montreal, June 14, 2021- The end of June 2021 marks the beginning of another chapter in the lives for all grade 11 students in Quebec as they graduate from high school. For EMSB’s grade 11 FACE student, Siobhan Kuzak, graduation means leaving the school that she has attended for the last 12 years of her life.

"FACE is not for everyone," she says. "It is for students who are more creative in nature, and for students who find interests in the arts. Itis great for exploring one’s artistic abilities if that is something that interests you. It is great for people who are passionate for music, art, theatre, choir, dance …FACE’s most unique feature is that it is a public school that involves students in all art forms. I appreciate this because usually schools that practice music will require you to already play an instrument and schools don’t usually focus on every art form.”

 Siobhan  performs.

Siobhan admits that her parents made the right decision to sign her up for FACE’ kindergarten, at five years old, because they thought it would suit her interests since they saw that she was a very artistic kid. When she was in grade one they also signed her up in the school’s extra-curricular string program for private lessons on violin. This was the beginning of Siobhan’s instrumental music journey. 

“Thank goodness they did," she said. "I absolutely loved it and continued to get more serious about the violin."

In Siobhan’s words, “The most difficult thing about playing the instrument is the fact that the violin takes an enormous amount of coordination from your brain to both of your hands since they are doing completely different things.  In spite of that, the violin gives me so much solace that even when I’m not sounding the best, I can appreciate that the violin still gives me comfort. It is also such an achievement when you work through your obstacles and come out on top. This is what gives me the will and the energy to overcome challenges and persist.”

Her hard work has paid off: Siobhan was twice the recipient of FACE School’s Stéphane Tétreault Scholarship, available to students in Grades 5 to 10 for perseverance, hard work and achievement on their string instrument. 

“Winning the award was very significant for me, as it was a huge motivator that made me want to work even harder to reach my goals," she says. "I used the first scholarship to pay for a music camp (Suzuki method violin camp) and my second scholarship went to purchase a new bow of good quality.”

For Siobhan, the highlight of her experience at FACE was her participation in orchestra and concerts as a member of the FACE Symphony Orchestra (OSF). “They (the concerts) brought everyone so much joy and brought us so close together,:" she says. "They also left us with some of the funniest memories, like trying to find food at the break of our orchestra rehearsals. People would be running around like crazy and would do almost anything for food.”. 

Upon graduation Siobhan was the recipient of the school’s Ethics Award as well as one of the three recipients of the Freda & Irwin Browns Scholarship; an annual award offered only to Secondary V students for their long-term contributions to the orchestras and string department. The recipients are models of excellence, commitment, perseverance and service.

"I will always be thankful for all the opportunities that pushed and motivated me in the best ways possible and I would not have been able to achieve all the things without the help of Ms. Stathopoulos,  my FACE music teacher," she says.

The orchestra and the live concerts are things that Siobhan, and all FACE students, have missed the most about their FACE experience during the pandemic. Nevertheless, thanks to the virtual orchestra project initiative students are able to graduate with a souvenir of an orchestra recording of their performance. Siobhan was one of the three graduating students featured as soloists in Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for Three Violins during the final Presto virtual orchestra concert. 

Siobhan played the first violin part and one can view her performance here: 

One can also hear Siobhan talk about her experience in FACE School’s virtual orchestra project in an EMSB podcast interview given by Suzanne Desautels in February 2021.

Siobhan plans to study health science at Dawson College and continue her musical studies at the Conservatoire. Her advice to the new Grade 7 students coming to FACE is to keep practicing their instrument. 

“Trust me, you won’t always feel like it, and you won’t always sound the best but it’ll serve you very well in the end,'" she says. "Don’t let obstacles get you down. Dedicate a period of time each day to your schedule to practice your instrument and don’t give up! Also have fun at FACE. It is a very special school. Don’t take it for granted!”

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