Many students walk the halls at HCA, trying their hand at several art forms and honing their craft week after week. Renelle Handa has been a student at HCA for over a decade, exploring every facet of the arts until she discovered what made her passions take flight! Learn more about Renelle’s ongoing dedication to the arts and what inspires her to continue her studies.

How long have you been studying the arts at HCA? What do you study?

I have studied at the HCA for almost 12 years, from grades 1-12. I have been learning piano for the entire duration of this time, and began classical voice lessons seven years ago! I also took acting classes from grades 1-6, joined summer camps, and volunteered here.

What is your area of focus at school?

I am in grade 12, and am about to finish the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Now that I have finished my final exams, I’m pretty much on summer break! Next year I am planning on studying architecture at the University of Waterloo. After having a predominantly STEM-oriented course load, I am looking forward to pursuing a field that combines my interest in both STEM and the visual arts.

Do you feel that your training in the arts has impacted your life? If so, how?

It definitely has. As for many young musicians, my journey in music started as something my parents nudged me to do as an extracurricular. I genuinely enjoyed my lessons at the conservatory and developed a passion for music, and I am lucky to say that the years I have spent learning my instruments are indicative of this! Although I stopped taking acting classes, I quickly knew that the arts as a whole was an aspect of my life that was here to stay. I started taking music more seriously when I began RCM exams in grade 5. Now that I have taken countless RCM exams and completed grade 10 piano, I am aware of the hard work it takes to prepare for such a large examination. Those sweaty summer days sitting at the piano for hours the week before exams were no joke!

Voice was a similar experience, but I began voice lessons out of a prior, already-realized interest in the instrument, not the other way around. While my interest in piano grew as my skills developed, for voice, the learning curve was frustrating being older and having already learned the basics of music. I have been teaching myself recently to enjoy the process of hearing my voice mature as I grow, and that improvement is a slow process.

Overall, I have learned that being passionate about music means putting in the time and effort to be able to produce it. It is a conscious decision you make every time you pick up your sheet music, sit on a piano bench, or attend your lessons. When I think about h

ow my ability is the cumulation of all these small instances, I realize how long it truly takes to become good at something. The arts have changed how I understand “dedication” and helped me create long-term goals that form a vision of myself in the future – a future me that is better at what I do, be it music or otherwise. This vision is what motivates me to keep trying.

 

You continued to study throughout the pandemic. How did your relationship with making music change during this time?

The pandemic initially hindered my improvement as I slipped into a bit of a slump having no school or extracurriculars for the first month. Even when I began online lessons, my exams were still pushed back, and my music festivals were cancelled, meaning I lost the momentum I had gained throughout the year in terms of practice. Doing lessons from home is very comfortable, but I know I am more diligent when I have to actively attend them in person. It also creates a barrier between you and your teacher that makes it hard to receive accurate feedback! Online lessons made me realize the importance of the word “performing” in the performing arts, and that my learning never feels complete until I can share it with those who want to listen.

 

What is your favourite memory at HCA?

My favourite memory is the Triple Threat summer camp I did the summer after grade 4. I found great fun in being able to put together and perform an entire play after only a week of practice (having the lead role definitely contributed to that), and the accompanying components such as the painting and keyboard sessions made it even more entertaining. It was also my first time singing and dancing in a more official setting. I thought it was a really great way to dip my toes into all the art forms in a low-pressure atmosphere, and I made good memories with my friends during that week. I liked it so much that I did it again a month later!

 

When you’re not focused on school or taking lessons, how do you like to spend your spare time?

You’ll probably find me listening to music, exploring the city with my friends, drawing, or watching TV shows (patiently waiting for season 2 of Young Royals on Netflix to be released ). Free time has been of the essence the past two years, and now that I get an extended summer break I’m excited to finally expand this list. I am hoping to get back into swimming and work towards becoming a lifeguard, and learn how to rollerblade!

 

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