87-year-old student the epitome of lifelong learning

February 19, 2020 | Arts & Culture

Lawrence McKnight, a MacEwan University Conservatory of Music student, just passed his Grade 2 Royal Conservatory of Music practical examination on clarinet, an impressive accomplishment clearly recognized within the Canadian music community. For Lawrence, who happens to be 87 years old, it’s also a huge achievement in his ever-evolving musical journey that demonstrates his passion for lifelong learning.

Music always played an important role in Lawrence’s life. Throughout his childhood, his mother played the piano and his father the violin, filling their family farm with music. He recalls being nine years old and joyfully whistling and humming along to the music – and he also remembers being stubborn and refusing to practice when his mother encouraged him to take piano lessons.

It wasn’t until recently that Lawrence fulfilled his mother’s wishes and started studying piano, along with three other instruments he chose for varying reasons – clarinet to join a friend’s band, euphonium for its mellow and soothing tone and violin to honour his father. What began as a small goal to incorporate music into his daily life – as recommended by his doctor to keep his mind and body active – quickly turned into a passion for music that has inspired him to practice daily and study for challenging examinations.

In the seven years that Lawrence has been taking lessons at the Conservatory, music education has grown to become part of his daily routine. “I get up at five, have an orange and an apple, shower, shave and get going to the Conservatory,” he says.

Lawrence also incorporates weekly wellness classes into his schedule to improve his posture and strength, which in turn help to refine his craft. While he enjoys his studies on a personal level, he’s also grateful that his new routine also broadened his social circles – he finds companionship in group classes and has built friendships with Conservatory instructors, staff and fellow students.

Lawrence has always been a lifelong learner and has been involved in education since the beginning of his career. While at the University of Alberta, University of Guelph and NAIT, he brought his passion for teaching, focused mostly on dairy science, into the classroom. And he loves learning just as much as he loves teaching. “When I see someone who is really good at something, I like to consider them a teacher and look for opportunities to learn from them,” he says with a smile. A great day for Lawrence includes productive practice time, a group wellness lesson and the chance to socialize with family and friends.

What’s next? Lawrence aspires to keep improving on his four instruments and to learn something new each day. He’s thankful that his instructors have encouraged him to explore his musical potential and invites others to look for the opportunity to dive into something new. “Just make sure that you start,” he affirms. “There are so many things available to us, it would be a shame to let them slip by.”

Learn more about the rich programming and events the Conservatory of Music has to offer at

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