As a youngster, Cavan resident Karel Baayen took piano lessons for a few years, but was not particularly inspired. At the age of 50, he felt he had missed an opportunity and decided to pursue a dream of learning to play the guitar. He was not looking to just strum some popular tunes on the instrument, but wanted to really play it- to master it. No youtube video instructions for him. Baayen signed up at the top music school in the country- the Royal Conservatory of music in Toronto- to take lessons from an accredited teacher and learn classical guitar.
It’s not like Baayen has lots of time on his hands. He operates a real estate appraisal firm which he established in 1991, continuing the tradition begun by his parents who have operated an appraisal firm in Cobourg since 1979. What started as a small residential appraisal office has grown to a full service firm with a staff of five appraisers providing residential, cottage, farm, commercial, industrial and institutional valuations for largely corporate clients. He also breeds golden retrievers on the side.
For the past three years, Baayen has carved out at least an hour a day to work on his guitar skills with the help of his teacher, Chris Vanhaverbeke, a Royal Conservatory teacher operating out of Newcastle. This spring, he joined the roughly 100,000 students who take Royal Conservatory examinations across North America each year to demonstrate their progress and proficiency at their instruments. For Karel, it was the Level 4 guitar exams.
His proficiency was acknowledged by the Royal Conservatory which awarded him the Gold Medal for scoring the top mark in Ontario for this grade level. He received his award at a ceremony at The Royal Conservatory’s national headquarters in Toronto, feeling quite conspicuous as one of the few adults receiving a recognition of this kind.
For Baayen, this achievement has confirmed that it is never too late to learn something new, as long as you apply yourself. He hopes it inspires others, including his son, to just go for it. It has also encouraged him to continue- there are still 9 levels to go.
For more information, about the Royal Conservatory, visit www.rcmusic.ca. KG