Saskatoon

North Battleford pianist back on road to fulfilling his dreams after brain injury

Cole Knutson's goal of a career as a classical pianist and opera coach was right on track. Then he was hit by a car.

Cole Knutson, a North Battleford piano player, will be pursuing his musical career in London, England

Cole Knutson was hit by a car in Austria. (Submitted by Cole Knutson)

Cole Knutson's goal of a career as a classical pianist and opera coach was right on track. Then he was hit by a car.

Knutson is from North Battleford, Saskatchewan. He first attended the University of Manitoba, pursuing on a bachelor's degree in classical saxophone performance.

His choice of saxophone was "very intentional," he said. He always planned to move to piano, with an eye toward accompanying and coaching opera singers. Learning saxophone helped him focus on "breathing technique and support," musical concepts that "translate directly to singing."

Last year he was getting ready to study at the Guildhall School for Music in London, England. He said it's "the best programme for what I do as a pianist in the world."

Knutson spent his summers in Austria studying music. In Austria, he was able to cultivate his passion for German classical music and the German language.

"[German is] one of the most important languages to learn in classical music," he said.

It was in Austria, last summer, that was he struck by a car while crossing the street.

Knutson suffered a double concussion. This immediately hit pause on Knutson's plans to move to London. 

"I had to take the year off on medical leave," he said.

Cole Knutson is preparing to study at the Guildhall School for Music in London, England. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

He returned to North Battleford. Although he was there to recover both physically and mentally — he had migraines and short term memory loss — he said he has trouble sitting still and managed to accomplish a lot in the past year.

He now holds three different jobs in North Battleford: he accompanies four different choirs, teaches music lessons for and works at the Performing Arts Centre.

Knutson said the year has allowed him to, "work on my technique, to study, do some research and to prepare for the future." 

It proved useful, because upon reapplying to the Guildhall School for Music he received an even better scholarship than before.

These funds will come in handy, he said, as the price tag associated with the Guildhall School for Music is hefty. The school is located in central London, "one of the most expensive areas in all of Europe to live," he said.

He estimates it will cost around $35,000 per year.  Part of that is the increased costs of visas due to the uncertainty of Brexit.

Knutson is a classical pianist from North Battleford, Saskatchewan. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

Knutson spent the summer applying for scholarships and grants, but said North Battleford and the surrounding Saskatchewan community have been some of his biggest supporters. He said he is thankful for local media who have covered his story.

"Generous people in the community and in Saskatchewan and friends across the country and across the world have been helping," he said.

Knutson is also using his talent to fund his journey. He is working on a series of fundraising concerts. The events will be free, but "people are welcome to donate and see the music that they would directly be supporting in the future," he said.

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