Many people in Port Alberni might recognize Danielle Marcinek for her years of performing as an accompanist with Timbre! Choir. At the end of February, the Port Alberni pianist took another step forward in her performing career.
Marcinek recently received her Licentiate Diploma in Piano Performance through the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM), which is the equivalent of a Master’s degree.
“I wanted to get my piano chops up to a really high level,” Marcinek explained. “I had been chipping away at it for the last couple of years, but after the [COVID-19] lockdown, all my concerts and musical projects were cancelled. That gave me some extra time to work on it. I had no idea how much work it was going to be,” she laughed.
She studied with Catherine Bundt, an RCM examiner and music festival adjudicator. In order to receive a Licentiate performers must complete an exam, which is evaluated as a professional concert performance.
Marcinek had to complete her exam remotely because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“I had to just send in a recording,” she explained. “But I had to treat it like it was an actual performance.”
Marcinek’s career in music started at a young age. Her mother, Joan, was a piano teacher. At the age of six, Marcinek started studying with her aunt Pat Miller, who was the musical director of Timbre! Choir for many years. Miller trained Marcinek as an accompanist.
“I have a very musical family,” Marcinek said. “It was the perfect training grounds for me.”
This led Marcinek to pursue her Bachelor of Music with distinction at the University of Victoria and helped her develop an international reputation as a pianist. She spent a number of years travelling around Europe and performing on cruise ship lounges, and has performed for royalty, dignitaries, politicians and celebrities. In 2019, she took part in the Sonic Boom Festival in Vancouver, which features new music from B.C.’s finest composers. She still regards it as a career highlight.
But COVID-19 made performing difficult.
“These days I’m doing more virtual recordings,” Marcinek explained.
Last weekend, Marcinek took part in a virtual recording at the Annex Theatre in Vancouver, performing “Six Songs from the Red Planet” by Tom Baker with an ensemble (piano, vocals, cello, clarinet and flute). Marcinek will also be recording a set of pieces by Vancouver composer Stefan Hintersteininger as part of a trio (flute, clarinet and piano).
Without any in-person performances, Marcinek spends most of her time these days teaching piano on the Lower Mainland. She works at two different music schools and is also the Oakridge United Church’s music director.
“I like teaching just as much as peforming,” said Marcinek. “If you’re a performer, teaching makes you a better performer. And performing makes you a better teacher.”
Marcinek doesn’t think she is finished with school yet.
“I have an interest in adjudicating festivals,” she explained. “I’m looking into training for that. I just want to keep learning. As a performer, you want to keep evolving. It keeps things exciting and keeps you creative.”
Marcinek has already been asked to be an adjudicator for a music festival in Vernon in 2022.
But even with all her national and international experience, some of her favourite memories involve Port Alberni’s Timbre! Choir.
“I want to go back [and perform with Timbre!] once things open up again,” she said. “That’s the plan.”