Young Achiever: Gareth makes the grade
For someone who at first disliked the instrument and found practice a “chore”, Gareth Cooper has gone on to master the saxophone.
The 13-year-old has become such a skilled player that this year he passed an exam with merit — four years earlier than many even sit it.
He took on the challenge of completing a Grade 8 assessment, which is usually tackled by older students aged about 17 or 18.
Now Gareth is looking forward to “having fun” with his music, but still has his sights set on a diploma.
The Saltus Grammar School pupil said: “I started playing saxophone almost six years ago, when I was 8.
“I started because my brother did it, and I liked the sound of it when he played it, but I didn’t like it right away.
“However, after two or so years, I began to like it, and began playing it for fun.”
Gareth, who has mostly been taught by tutor Lisa Maule, said that the time passed quickly when he was absorbed in his music.
The Smiths resident said: “When I have a good space of time and am feeling good, I can sometimes play for an hour and a half without noticing that so much time has passed.
“That doesn’t happen that often though. Most of the time, I play for approximately half an hour to an hour, three or four times a week, if time allows.
“What I enjoy playing the most is jazz. However, I play mostly classical music since my teacher is more experienced in teaching that genre.”
For the Grade 8 exam, set by Trinity College London, Gareth’s assessment was a combination of musical pieces, a technical work and an aural test.
He added: “I had to increase my practice time closer to the exam to be able to put the pieces up to a good standard.”
Gareth sat the test in May, in Toronto, Canada, and scored a pass with merit.
The S9 student is no stranger to pressure.
He earlier joined his older brother, Ross, 16, in a contest and has also played alongside the Ferio Saxophone Quartet, considered one of Britain’s top saxophone groups.
Gareth, who has since celebrated his fourteenth birthday, explained: “In the past, I have done two performances in the Bermuda music festival — one as a competition which I entered with my brother and the other with the Ferio sax quartet.
“I really enjoyed those performances after I did them — not before as they were quite stressful when paired with my upcoming Grade 8 exam.”
He added: “I have no long-term goals for the saxophone except to have fun — I intend on keeping it as a hobby and not as a career.”
But Gareth said he had started work on a performance-only diploma to become an Associate of the Royal Schools of Music.
Ms Maule added: “You can only improve with practice, so the result speaks for itself.
“There are no shortcuts and no last-minute cramming like an academic exam, it has to be ongoing.
“It has to be something that the individual wants to do themselves — it has to come from self-motivation.”
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