Sunday, December 4, 2011

Students are the Lifeline

First, I have to say that getting a full night of sleep (i.e. going to bed before 2 a.m.) has felt amazing but has seriously cut into my writing time!  Good habits are causing a kind of existential jet lag... this commitment to keeping myself strong does interfere with my ambitions.
There have been lots of things I wanted to talk about!  And one is the experience of witnessing young bassoonists and other young musicians at the thresholds of their professional careers.  To see the passion and dedication is humbling and almost shocking.  I realize that you can see a person’s future in the way they live their present.
And I am reminded over and over that teaching is an essential part of being an expressive artist.
And so often, I wish that I could pull any doubt from their young souls and let them know that they will achieve their goals, and therefore should imagine the best possible goals.
And I want to tell them that, through their work, their thoughts, their reactions and questions and playing, they remind me of everything that is important when I watch their journeys.
For example, I got the opportunity to take of the Orchestral Literature Class for the bassoon studio at the Glenn Gould Studio (of the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto).   Though my career is focused on solo repertoire at the moment, orchestral music remains the foundation of my training and my career.  The chance to revisit this music and to remember the self-training and to witness the steps that the five young bassoonists of the GGS are taking to refine their skills to become deft and powerful orchestral players makes me far happier than I ever expected.  And when my ex-husband cheerfully returned our mutual library of orchestral parts (obsessively indexed by yours truly), I felt happier than if my favourite childhood doll had suddenly found his head again (poor Mr Monkey).
And for the last two weeks, I have been working with two teams of young artists at both the Glenn Gould School and the University of Toronto as we prepare for our sixth annual Vivaldi Christmas concert (our first in Toronto).  My idea is that a Vivaldi concerto combines everything that we learn as classical artists... every technique of agility and expressivity is called into play along with collaboration with the noble strings (always so developmental for us!).  And side by side with the artistic endeavor is the reality of what it takes to make a concert happen --- preparing parts, checking parts, arranging rehearsals, finding a venue, getting everyone’s updated bios, producing programs, scheduling every aspect of the event, oh, and making reeds, learning/memorizing the concerti along with everything else that life demands.  We have to fly by the seat of our pants and the more skills we gather along the way, well, the better the toboggan ride becomes!
My students are brave and I respect their courage so much.  The older students at university have the courage to try something new while juggling crazy schedules.  The youngest students trust me and are aiming their sights higher than I have ever seen before.  I know they will all be far greater players than I ever could be.

Here is a note by a very young student (Nicolas Richard) who met me in September.  His account of the experience was published in the Atlantic Presenters' Newsletter.  The intensity and vividness of his impressions makes me realize that every word we say and every note we play will register on a sensitive soul.  This alone is the reason to develop confidence and kindness and knowledge.  OK, I have to sleep now.  My students say it is good for me.

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