Grand Bahamian Elijah Stevens’ dream of attaining concert pianist status is back on track with has acceptance into the two-year Artist Diploma Program, Piano at The Glenn Gould School of The Royal Conservatory for the 2022-2023 academic year.
Stevens, 25, a classical pianist, has been offered a $25,745 ($20,462.59 US dollars) scholarship, which will reduce his payable tuition to $5,000 ($3,974.09 US dollars.)
In his confirmation acceptance, Stevens said, “The level of musicianship this year was incredibly high for all applicants, so for you to have distinguished yourself in this way is truly something to be proud of.”
Learning of his acceptance on March 11 felt “incredible” to Stevens.
“Being accepted to the Royal Conservatory of Music feels like destiny. It is a great feeling to see that all my work towards my musical dreams has not been in vain and I am looking forward to studying with some of the best and brightest this world has to offer.”
He had previously enrolled in the $65,000 per year Manhattan School of Music (MSM), because he wanted to study under the tutelage of Olga Kern (legendary pianist), on a wing and a prayer and without a scholarship, “hoping a miracle would happen”, and that, if he just got his foot in the door, the rest would work out. That’s not how it panned out for him.
Stevens, in August 2019, had enrolled at MSM with $16,000 he had raised over the summer of that year but, by December, he was escorted off campus, and his things packed up. He had spent just a few short months at what he considered his dream school.
“It was so embarrassing and painful, especially after enduring so much to get to that school. From that point, I said that I never, ever wanted to see an application for schools again.”
After being “escorted” off the MSM campus, Stevens said he felt “mentally and emotionally stuck” on that school.
“I felt that I had to study there or nowhere else.”
Stevens said he remained in New York with the goal of returning to MSM at the back of his mind, because he still had a yearning to fulfill his dream. After finally accepting and embracing what he went through, he said he began to let it go, so that he could heal and move on.
“I decided I wanted to pursue studies at The Glenn Gould School, RCM after Dr. Michael Berkovsky, a professor there, recommended me to do so. I reached out to him about possible studies with him and he told me he was teaching there at the Royal Conservatory of Music and that I would need to apply. Learning that this school only accepts 20 pianists from around the world to study really inspired me to want to be a part of that number.”
The Glenn Gould School’s Artist Diploma Program is for exceptionally gifted musicians who wish to continue formal study to perfect their technique. The program is geared toward students who exhibit outstanding promise for a solo piano career. The program provides instruction by master teacher/artists and in-depth playing experience for the development of performance potential. A special commitment to the student’s artistic growth ensures thorough preparation for the performance opportunities available at The Glenn Gould School, international competitions and auditions.
Stevens had previously met Berkovsky when he played for him in a master class at Bethune-Cookman University (BCU), where he earned his bachelor’s degree, and stayed in touch through social media.
Stevens applied to The Glenn Gould School of The Royal Conservatory. His acceptance and scholarship afford him the opportunity to realize his dream of becoming a concert pianist.
“I have a close relationship with God, and I felt that God was telling me that He was sending me back to school and that He would make the way possible. It is because of listening to that heavenly voice that I had the faith and courage to reapply.”
Stevens, who is currently in the United States, plans to begin studies at the Toronto, Canada, conservatory in the fall.
“My long-term aspirations are to become a world-renowned pedagogue and concert pianist and to travel the world performing and sharing my story. I would also want to establish a foundation to help the less fortunate in a variety of ways.”
Struggling to pursue an education is not new to Stevens. In 2013, at age 17, he left The Bahamas, unaccompanied on a “wing and a prayer” with his belongings and $100 in his pocket to begin pursuit of his concert pianist dreams, at the historically Black university, BCU, in Daytona, Florida.
After being denied six scholarships in The Bahamas, Stevens reached out to the university to learn what options he had available to him for funding. The music department encouraged him to audition. He left The Bahamas for BCU with no guarantee of being awarded anything. His risk paid off. BCU offered him a scholarship which covered all his fees. When he graduated BCU in December 2017, he was the first in his family to earn a degree in higher education.
“I’ve endured a long, hard and tumultuous journey of ups and downs to get to this point.”
The ups and downs included homelessness for seven months, living in his car, to get into MSM in 2019. Stevens said he shares his story to inspire others to never give up and to always believe in their dream.