BSSC Year 12 student, Charlie Davis Tope, believes it’s the combination of his varied subjects that makes school so enjoyable for him.

“I also like the university feel of BSSC and the breadth of subjects on offer,” he says. “For example, although I came to music later than most of the other music students, I really wanted to study both Music Styles and Music Composition. Here I can do that.

“I almost feel guilty because I enjoy piano so much—and practicing counts as ‘study’!”

Charlie began Music in Year 7 but didn’t get serious about it until Year 10 when he began studying theory. Once he began to engage with music at this level, it became a source of sheer enjoyment.

“Although I’ve had to work really hard since then, I just consider the piano a wonderful instrument that does not lock you out of playing any type of music,” he says.

Charlie cites ‘tons’ of influences and pianists he admires—Oscar Peterson, McCoy Tyner, Bach, Rachmaninov—eclectic examples of his tastes. But he names Ray Charles as a particularly impressive pianist.

“We studied him in class this year, and the way he learnt a piece,” Charlie says. “He was blind and had to feel the Braille music score with one hand, and practice that. Then he would feel the score for the other hand and ultimately put them together—and he made a name for himself in a racially oppressive society.”

BSSC has provided Charlie with teachers he describes as awesome.

“I particularly appreciated the support I received last year from Matt Kellow—he’s always approachable. And the music staff have been really great too.

“When I needed some special provisions everyone was really great about it.”

Asked for a study tip, Charlie has two succinct suggestions.

“Start your projects early—even if you just spend five minutes skimming over them to start with,” he says. You’ll probably find there is a spark in your mind and you will come up with ideas unexpectedly.

“Secondly, learning to study efficiently is really important.”

He also believes that while hard work is important, it’s also vital to develop other skills.

“Being entirely consumed by your schoolwork might not make you a very nice person,” Charlie says. “I think VCE is not only what you learn, but about developing and deepening your capacity to learn. Grades matter, but so do things like teamwork and other social skills.”

As Charlie looks to the future he expects he will always play piano, but he has aspirations in other areas when it comes to a career.

“I really like the challenge of solving problems,” he says. “Careers such as a data science or coding systems that can be applied to real-world problems appeal to me. I love how things fit together in maths, so a career involving mathematics also appeals.”

Asked about global issues that concern him, Charlie is quick to name two.

“An issue I am very conscious of is the way technological changes are happening faster than our laws can keep up,” he says. “Other than that, I tend to look at global issues, such as climate change, in the minutiae. I would be interested in exploring the individual small systems that contribute to it, and how they can be improved,” he says.

The idea of moving through a problem almost mathematically is an approach Charlie admires. He mentions Alan Turing—the genius who helped to crack the ‘Enigma Code’ for the English during World War Two.

“‘Enigma’ was a secure messaging system used by the Germans that had a cypher system which was changed daily,” he says. “Cracking this code was a spectacular achievement with big real-world consequences.”

The use of algorithms is something many of us think about as applying only to scientific or mathematically-related domains. However, Charlie argues that even the way a novel is developed displays techniques that are not so different.

“Maybe some artistic achievements can be considered in this way too?”

Despite his love of music and interest in all things technical, such as coding, Charlie’s life also includes sport and a number of hobbies. He plays on a Bendigo inline hockey team at The Zone where he is also involved in some coaching.

“I also play ice hockey, but because of my study commitments, I’m part of a casual league at present,” Charlie explains. “There are heaps of other things I’m interested in—like digital artwork—that I have no time for this year!”

Charlie is also a bit of an amateur chef.

“Just the easy stuff,” he insists. Though we have heard that Charlie is a bit of a wiz with eggs!

Asked if there was any advice he would love to go back and give his 12-year-old self, Charlie laughs and insists, “I probably wouldn’t listen to myself if I did! I think every lesson I’ve learnt has been important. I wouldn’t want to change anything.”