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Tested at the top

Jennifer Galloway does it all. She dances, sings, teaches, studies difficult high school academics, and plays the piano - with an emphasis on the piano.

Jennifer Galloway does it all. She dances, sings, teaches, studies difficult high school academics, and plays the piano - with an emphasis on the piano.

The 17-year-old Squamish resident recently com pleted her Associate of Royal Conservatory of Toronto (ARCT) - the highest level of classical piano conservatory training that can be achieved in Canada.

"It's like a university degree," said Julie Murakami, Jennifer's piano teacher, who herself has an ARCT, as well as a bachelor of music from the University of Toronto. "It's a two-year diploma program. It's a big achievement."

Murakami has only had eight piano students in 25 years complete the test.

Jennifer had to perform six pieces each around 20 minutes long by memory to adjudicators. She played pieces by Bach, Chopin, Gershwin, Mozart and Pentland.

And Murakami knew that Jennifer would succeed.

"I had no doubt," she said. "I was very proud."

Jennifer herself was the one who didn't think she would pass the grueling exam.

"I thought I did horribly in my exam," she said.

As soon as the test was over, she began practising to take it again. But she was in the clear. To get the ARCT diploma, students need 70 per cent. Jennifer got 79 per cent. She also had to complete 10 music history and theory subjects and all the Royal Conservatory levels, which go from Grade 1 to ARCT.

"She is extremely musical and sensitive with excellent technique," Murakami said. "She really feels the music. She's quite the romantic."

For Jennifer, completing the ARCT means she gets a bit of a break from classical music.

"I'm going to try out jazz for awhile," she said.

Playing the piano has never been a chore for Jennifer.

"I've always really liked it," she said. "I just didn't like practising when I was little. I had trouble staying focused when I was young."

"I think when I got past Grade 8 [Royal Conservatory] I wanted to push myself as far as I could go," she said.

Jennifer still gets nervous when performing, but talking to other musicians helps calm her nerves.

"I like to talk to other performers," she said.

Jennifer has had many opportunities to converse with and learn from other musicians. She competed at the B.C. provincial festival, where she was a runner-up - competing against university students.

She also met Ian Parker, who is studying at Juilliard, and whose father is the best piano teacher in Vancouver, according to Jennifer.

For now Jennfer, who is in Grade 12 at Howe Sound Secondary, is focusing on her many academics, including physics, chemistry, math, biology and French. But she plans on taking music programs at Capilano College or the University of British Columbia - with sciences on the side.

The fact that Jennifer wants to continue her musical path is something her teacher is proud of.

"I'm really happy she has this love of music," Murakami said.

And Jennifer doesn't seem to have the focusing problems she dealt with when she was younger. She manages all her activities, including teaching the piano and dancing jazz, ballet and hip hop with her piano practice.

"I'm very focused at school. I just work, work, work," she said.