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Community Matters

Good Things Come in Threes

September 1st, 2015

By Keyano Staff Writer

Photos by Rosa Rizzuto

What are Fort McMurray’s teenagers up to these days? Making music.

Francesco, Helena, and Allessandro Rizzuto are three of Keyano Conservatory Music program’s students who are making themselves known on Fort McMurray’s music scene. Affectionately referred to as the ‘Rizzuto clan’ by local guitarist and Keyano Conservatory instructor Dan Gillies, these three incredibly talented siblings joined the Conservatory one after another starting in 2012.

Francesco, 16 years old, started taking electric guitar lessons at Keyano Conservatory three years ago and hasn’t looked back since. His high school band The Veins has been rocking stages all around town - performing on the main stage at WinterPLAY 2015, Full Moon Café, and most recently the Instruments of Change Benefit Concert. Their most recent big gig was at the Western Canada Summer Games as part of the entertainment for the Visitor’s Village.

With a voice reminiscent of Sarah McLachlan, Helena, 14 years old, began her musical career as a vocal student, then started to learn how to play guitar at the Conservatory in the winter of 2014. She’s not the only Rizzuto family member who has studied more than one discipline.  The youngest Rizzuto, Alessandro, 12 years old, started his guitar lessons at the Conservatory in the spring of 2013 after watching his siblings’ passion for music grow. He is also learning how to play the drums and saxophone at school. Neither of the Rizzuto parents play any instruments, so they are dumbfounded as to where their children get their musical talent. But like any proud parent, they are thrilled their kids have taken up music and grown it into a passion and a way of life.

All of us, including children, could do with a little bit of music’s magic in our lives. Research suggests there are great benefits to enrolling your child in music classes, benefits that are shared by both dance and art classes too. All three of these disciplines offer an excellent way for children to express themselves and have some fun, they are improving their social skills, cognitive development, fine motor skills and coordination while learning something new and exploring their creative sides. Research also suggests that classes in music, dance and art can increase self-esteem. “My kids all thrive in every aspect of their lives. They are all passionate about music, but they are all doing exceptionally well in school, and it seems effortless to them,” says the trio’s mother, Rosa Rizzuto, on the benefits of music in her children’s lives. “I absolutely agree with what the research is saying, my kids are the perfect example. I think that by exercising their minds on something other than academic work, they are able to expand their cognitive skills and that transfers over to their school work and social skills.”

Skills and life lessons that can come in handy, particularly in the music industry. Although she’s still a teenager, Helena Rizzuto has already developed her business sense. She’s into modern pop music and not just for the catchy tunes; she knows it’s what her audience wants to hear. “People like it when you play a song they know and can sing along with, my favourite song to sing right now is Ed Sheeran’s popular song Thinking Out Loud.” So not only is she a talented musician, she is also a budding business woman with a good understanding of her audience.

Gillies describes the Rizzuto teenagers as each having their own distinct and individual styles, but they all live and breathe music. Francesco says he really started to love music when he was about 10 years old and heard AC/DC and Led Zeppelin for the first time.  “I love rock music especially The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, they really inspire me to work hard and create the music that I do.”

The oldest of the Rizzuto clan, Francesco, will be the first to spread his wings and move on from the YMM community. He plans to attend MacEwan University to study in the Music Diploma program as the next step in his career. Hopefully, that will take him in the right direction in order to secure his dream job as a professional musician.

After being awarded the two top honours at the 2015 Oil Sands Rotary Music Festival (Francesco got Platinum, Helena got Gold, Allesandro got Gold) the family of talented teens are already registered for classes in the fall with Keyano Conservatory guitar instructor Dan Gillies. The Conservatory offers over 30 courses in contemporary and classical music, dance and visual arts; including an adult community choir, Royal Academy of Dance ballet classes and digital photography.  

There are two Merriam-Webster definitions for the word ‘conservatory’ – a building with glass walls and a glass roof used for growing plants; a school in which students are taught music, theatre, or dance. In a way they are one and the same, a place to grow and thrive, a place that fosters creativity and self-expression. Keyano Conservatory is honoured to be that place. With fully equipped, state of the art multi-use music studios, eight grand pianos and highly qualified instructors, the nurturing of talent is extraordinary.

The Keyano Conservatory a place to grow and learn. There is a community here with a connection between instructors and students not unlike a great big family - they work hard for each other, always teaching each other new things and proud of their accomplishments.

Don’t forget to show your support of our budding musical artists and keep an eye out for the Rizzuto clan performing in Father Mercredi High School’s cafeteria, giving a garage concert or busking in front of a convenience store; you might just be seeing tomorrow’s superstars.

You can find more information on programming available at the Keyano Conservatory by visiting or emailing

Tags: education, Teens

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