I want to introduce you to a remarkable young pianist who studies in the Arts Unionville program at Unionville High School. Her name is Charissa Vandikas and she is this year’s winner of the Ontario Registered Music Teachers’ Association Young Artist Award. She is currently on tour, which takes her – over the course of a month and a half – all across Ontario, with stops in North Bay, Sarnia, Kingston, Ottawa, Newmarket and elsewhere. This Sunday, October 19, at 2:30 pm, Charissa will be giving a recital in Toronto at Chambers House, the Canadian Music Centre. Her program includes works by Beethoven, Brahms, Scarlatti, Liszt and Canadian David McIntyre. I recently sent Charissa a series of questions about her young career, and she responded with characteristic maturity and wit. Here is part of that exchange:
1) Describe your relationship with the piano and piano-playing in general:
I’ve played piano since before I can remember. Both my parents teach it, and all three of my brothers play it. I’m constantly surrounded by piano music, which is part of what makes it such a significant part of my life. I feel like I’ve been hypnotized to the point that I feel terribly guilty (enough that it keeps me up at night) when I skip even a single day of practising. It’s a routine part of my life, but it rarely gets boring or tedious–yes, even when doing slow practice.
2) What has been a highlight for you in this whole ORMTA experience?
Can I say all of it? It’s such a great opportunity that ORMTA is offering, an opportunity that does not come around often enough. As the featured Young Artist, I get to tour Ontario playing in some great venues (some large, some small). I like to think of this tour as the epitome of my practising. I feel that performing helps me fulfil my role as a musician–playing not just for myself, but for others. It helps that the “others” are a supportive and appreciative audience of teachers, students, friends and family.
3) What role has the Arts Unionville piano program at UHS played in your success?
I think the most important thing that the UHS piano program has done for me is introduce me to the words “collaborative pianist”. Before I came to UHS, my experience as an accompanist was very limited. After my first year of AU Music, I felt like a seasoned professional! Not to say that I still don’t have so much to learn (which I do, of course), but I was given so many chances to accompany strings, winds and vocalists that a distinct improvement was only natural. The program presents the pianists with a huge amount of opportunities to hone our skills as collaborators, not just soloists (as I think most of us who first come into the program are primarily). It’s taught me organization and time management, and has helped me learn music at a faster rate. Musically, I’m much more aware of the different lines; I’ve learned to listen and react to what I’m hearing–a skill that is invaluable to any musician, soloist or otherwise.
4) What are your plans next year?
I plan to study piano performance in post-secondary school. Music is such an imperative part of my life that it’s hard to imagine not including it in my future. It’s what I love doing, and I’m willing to take time to see how far I can go with it. If that means bigger competitions, anxiety and student debt, then so be it!
5) Please add anything else!!
I’m so honoured to be given this opportunity. I have the prospect of stretching my boundaries in terms of focus, endurance, poise, and much more. It’s a mammoth learning experience that I’m impossibly grateful for.
As you can read, Charissa is a poised and determined young artist and it would be well worth hearing her. For more details on the ORMTA tour, visit