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Young pianist lands Juno-welcoming gig

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Remember the name Raymond Guerard. You may well see it on a marquee one day.

The 12-year-old solo pianist was chosen to play as part of the We Speak Music performance series at the airport, which will see Guerard welcome Juno attendees to Winnipeg on March 27 and 28, along with the St. John Brebeuf Boys Choir, Richer School Chamber Choir (grades 3-8), Bruce Middle School Concert Choir, Garden City Groove Vocal Jazz, Garden City Chamber Choir, Lakewood School Elementary Choir (grades 3-5), Churchill High School Junior Singers (grades 7-9), Sargent Park Grade 9 Choir, Sistema Winnipeg and the Dirty Catfish Brass Band. The event is free and open to the public.

Guerard, who is in Grade 7 in school and Grade 6 piano, is one of the only performers who will perform both days. "I'm pretty excited about it. When I found out, I almost jumped out of my seat," he says during an interview at the home of his piano teacher, Jacqueline Ryz.

Guerard will be performing a mixed repertoire he helped curate with Ryz, who has been his piano instructor since 2010. There's a strong focus on Canadian composers: he'll be performing works by modern composers such as Martha Hill Duncan, Violet Archer and Nancy Telfer, along with the famous Lullaby of Birdland by British jazz pianist George Shearing and a piece by West Side Story composer Leonard Bernstein. (He'll also do some Chopin and Kuhlau for good measure.)

Ryz, herself an established performer with a master's in piano performance from McGill, sees a lot of promise in her young student.

"Raymond is one of those innate musicians. Things come quite naturally to him. He has a highly developed sense of rhythm. He has very good musical instincts," she says.

As a senior examiner for Royal Conservatory Examinations, she knows talent when she sees it. So when an email from the 2014 Juno Awards Host Committee landed in her inbox seeking performers, she immediately thought of Raymond.

"He's such an extroverted kid that I thought he'd be perfect," she says. "I'm what you'd call an opportunity seeker. When this came up, I thought, 'Grab it.'"

Thanks to his high performance marks at the Winnipeg Music Festival earlier this month and stellar exam scores in school, Ryz believes Guerard has a bright future no matter where his studies take him.

For Raymond's part, he's at home behind the keyboard. He's already establishing a style, favouring Romantic-era character pieces, preferably with an allegro tempo: fast, quick and bright.

"It's just fun," he says of playing piano. "I love the moods of the pieces."

For now, he plans to see where his lessons take him. He's practising 45 minutes to an hour a day, and is excited about future opportunities.

Ryz has been teaching piano for more than 30 years. Students like Raymond make it a joy.

"When you get three or four students in a row who haven't practised carefully, it's not a good day," she says with a laugh. "Then you get someone as enthusiastic as Raymond, and the musical dialogue can be really rewarding."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 26, 2014 D3

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