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Legally blind guitarist earns top exam mark in B.C.

Langley guitar student Patrick Jagdeo won a gold medal for earning the top mark in B.C. in his Grade 4 Royal Conservatory exam.  - Brenda ANDERSON/Langley Times
Langley guitar student Patrick Jagdeo won a gold medal for earning the top mark in B.C. in his Grade 4 Royal Conservatory exam.
— image credit: Brenda ANDERSON/Langley Times

As if receiving the top mark in the province on his classical guitar exam wasn’t enough, a Langley musician rose to meet some significant challenges on his way to earning the distinction.

Patrick Jagdeo, who has special needs, including being legally blind, received a gold medal for his achievement this spring, during a ceremony at the Chan recital Hall at UBC.  The Western Conservatory of Music student earned the top mark in B.C. during his Grade 4 Royal Conservatory practical examination.

“I was surprised and happy that I got a good mark, period,” said Jagdeo, when asked whether he would have anticipated getting the best mark at his grade level — an 84.

“Every exam is a gamble. Eighty four per cent is great; the gold medal is the icing on the cake,” he said.

Not that he was leaving much to chance. He devised his own study method for the test, which he based on the show, The Amazing Race. He’d play a song before a pretend audience and then, depending on his performance, he’d advance to the next city or else get ‘U-turned.’

As happy as he is to chat, Jagdeo is also more than willing to play and sing a few songs as a demonstration of the skills he’s acquired over the past six years.

Among today’s selections are an arrangement of Work, For the Night is Coming, from the Adventist hymnal, and an original piece Jagdeo wrote about the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for 69 days in 2010.

The accomplishment is a real shot in the arm for the school, too, said Richard Haack, principal and founding director of Langley’s Western Conservatory of Music.

“Patrick is a special student, with special needs. For him to obtain this award is indeed a great accomplishment and we are all very proud of him.”

Throughout his studies, Jagdeo has taken weekly classes at the 33-year-old  music school on Glover Road. But he met his current instructor, Mark Armstrong, just three years ago, and immediately impressed the teacher with his work ethic.

“Patrick is one of the most hardworking students I’ve ever had,” said Armstrong.

“It’s a real treat, working with Patrick. I’m excited to see him grow further.”

Jagdeo’s music career started when he began playing the organ, but his mother steered him toward the more portable instrument.

“I encouraged him to do guitar. I just thought it would be a little more social,” said Mildred Jagdeo.

Jagdeo volunteers at the Langley Senior Resources Centre, playing for members and helping out with special events. He is also plans to record a CD of Christmas music.

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