Piano teacher Anna Fomina had every reason to be beaming with pride last Sunday. She has turned out many outstanding students, but never before in her lengthy teaching career at the 25-year-old Mississauga School of Music (MSM) did she produce a Piano Performance Associate Diploma (ARCT) student with a perfect 100 per cent mark.
That was until Rashaan Allwood came along. The Mississauga teenager was one of just nine students awarded national gold medals for obtaining the highest marks in various musical disciplines at last Sunday’s Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) graduation.
He however stood out for his matchless perfection.
“To get 100 per cent in that category is very, very rare,” said Jeff Embleton, the RCM’s publicity manager. “Getting that mark in the theory is quite achievable, but there’s a little more subjectivity when it comes to the practical and the allotment of marks. What Rashaan has done is remarkable and tremendously impressive.”
Fomina was associated with Allwood for over a decade.
“Rashaan came to me as a little boy and to see how he has progressed and where he’s at makes me feel so good,” she said. “He’s amazing, smart and very talented. It was such a pleasure for me to work with a student like him. Most students have talent, but what separates Rashaan are his hard work and the fact that he’s musically inclined to the point that he touches people’s hearts.
“His parents should also be credited for standing by his side throughout the entire process.”
MSM owner Jenny Goh also could not hide her delight at her school’s prized graduate.
“Rashaan is very polite, he listens, he works hard and he’s talented,” she said. “In addition, he loves music, he had a good teacher and his parents were very supportive.”
A University of Toronto first-year music student, Allwood aspires to be a piano performance professor and concert pianist. His favourite pianists are Vladimir Horowitz, who is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century; child prodigy, Evgeny Kissin; Sydney Symphony Orchestra artistic director, Vladimir Ashkenazy and late Canadian icon Oscar Peterson.
Allwood, who averaged 95 per cent in Grade 12 at Cawthra Park Secondary School, has been rewarded for excellence in the past few months with several community awards. They include U of T, the MSM, the Alliance of Jamaican Alumni Associations, John Brooks, the Black Business & Professional Association Caring Citizen and the inaugural James Massey Memorial Music awards.
Two years ago, Allwood became the Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) Canada’s youngest supporter of a basic school in Jamaica when he adopted New Town Early Childhood Institution in St. Elizabeth. In 2003, he played the lead role of Young Simba in the Walt Disney Broadway musical, The Lion King.
“I am so happy to see him succeed,” said Allwood’s mother, Joyce, who came to Canada in 1993 from Jamaica via the United States. “He has worked so hard and it’s at times like these that you feel good as a parent. My dad’s parents were from India and they were into the traditional Indian music and my husband (Filmore migrated from Jamaica 26 years ago) plays the piano and guitar. Music is in Rashaan’s blood.”
Allwood’s older brother – Yannick – also graduated from the MSM and Cawthra Park Secondary School and is pursuing music and actuarial science at the University of Western Ontario.