®The finest instrument is the mind.

Q&A: Alumnus Eric Radford, medal-winning figure skater and composer

Eric Radford and Meagan Duhamel

Determination is epitomized in the career of Canadian figure skater and Royal Conservatory alumnus Eric Radford. Together with partner Meagan Duhamel, he won two national pairs titles, as well as the bronze medal at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships, despite only performing together for a few years.

When not on the ice, the native of Balmertown, Ontario has applied the same dedication to music, completing several Royal Conservatory piano examinations and spending his spare time writing original compositions. One of these pieces, Tribute, will be used as his short program throughout the 2013-14 season.

Eric is among many accomplished athletes who are also alumni of The Royal Conservatory, a list which includes several medal-winning Olympians and Paralympians.  Eric also hopes to compete for Canada at the upcoming 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.

We caught up with Eric as he prepared for Skate Canada International, his first major competition of the season. He explained how music has contributed to his success as a skater, and revealed a special connection to Mozart.

How old were you when you started your musical training, and how did it come about? 

I started studying music when I was eight years old. This was also the same age I started skating. My brother was learning “When the Saints Go Marching In” for his music class at school and when he was finished practicing I would go in and play around on the piano. I taught myself to play that piece by ear and my mom put me into piano lessons.

How has music education contributed to your growth and success as an athlete?

Figure skating is one of only a couple sports that use music, so my music education has contributed immensely to my success. Understanding and more importantly being able to feel the rhythms, phrasing and punctuated melodies of a piece of music allows me to connect and perform more fluidly and easily.

Have you any preferred pieces to play?

I have big hands so I love playing Rachmaninoff, but one song that has really 'stuck' with me is “Rondo Alla Turca” from Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 11. It’s one of the earliest classical pieces I can remember listening to and since I share my birthday with Mozart, I’ve always felt a strong connection to his music.

Can you share a fond memory of learning music using the Royal Conservatory curriculum?

When I would take my piano exams, the nervousness and feeling of anticipation always reminded me of skating competitions. I used to ask myself “Why did I choose two activities that involve so much stress and anxiety?!” Waiting for my results to come in the mail was so exciting and of course the feeling of accomplishment was the best feeling ever!

As a skater and a musician, what techniques do you use to stay motivated, and what advice would you give hopeful musicians or athletes?

Dream big and never give up. And also don’t be afraid to make mistakes. In both music and skating I learned more from my mistakes than from my successes. Sometimes a mistake during one of my pieces became an idea for a whole new composition for me. If you aim to improve a little each day, the day will come where you and others around you will notice a big difference.

Finally… When you’re not skating, you compose music. Some of your routines in competition have been set to original pieces of yours. Tell us a little about that, and when we can expect your debut album.

This season I composed our short program, which we will use for the Olympics. I composed the piece after my coach at the time passed away from cancer. He is a huge part of why I am achieving my dreams in skating and this song is a tribute to him. Ever since I started playing piano I have been composing and it’s something I hope to study and develop more after my skating career.  I would love to release an album someday and it would be even better if it were to become a soundtrack to a movie!

Follow Eric on Twitter as you cheer him on this season!

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Photo ©Skate Canada/Stephan Potopnyk.

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We caught up with alumnus Eric Radford in advance of Skate Canada International, his first major figure skating competition of the 2013-14 season.