... i did get on the late train though

people often ask how i got involved in music.  funny enough, i tell them: no, my parents arent musicians nor i was put to lessons at a tender young age.  i did wanted to go to a specialty arts schools but i wasnt allowed to audition, as only silly or really rich kids went there.  no, i didnt fall in love with piano, but with oboe; however, i wasnt encouraged nor allowed to have one. we did have a piano though so i started on piano.  hmm, organ- well, i did study for about 8 years but that's because i was one day hired to play an organ for sunday services at this massive church at age 14. yep. i was on the payroll.

i remember feeling a bit confused in high school as i was not part of their music curriculum.  at that break where the preteens were taken into the band room and were asked to select an instrument, i was in my english-as-second-language class. by the time i have learned english, i have missed the boat totally to join music classes.  our high school music teachers refused to let me in and i used to look at the kids going to band practice with bit of envy.  i didnt like brass instruments and i still dont. but i remember thinking it couldve been nice to see how it all wouldve pan out.

i went to university to study music only after i have stopped playing for awhile and i never thought i would make it as a player.  i auditioned as music education major and as my friends did their third and fourth year undergraduate recitals, i felt a bit envious.  in fact, if my old teacher did not encourage me to attend my very fist music camp/festival at a young age of 21, i probably have stayed in the city to do teacher's college. then what? i have no clue.

it was all bizarre, this music camp stuff. kiddies came with their stuff prepared; i remember asking a boy how long he has been working on a particular piece- he said: over a year.  i thought, what? really? you are only fourteen or so! the idea that they have been in music camps since they were children and that they had parents and family/friends who were musical were inconceivable for me.  i realized that there were kids whose lives were saturated from music and that whatever they do, they would always be supported.  in contrast, my parents were a bit shocked and displeased when i decided to ditch med school for a sketchy career choice (or lack thereof) of music.  thank the lord, they thought, at least i wasnt into pop or jazz music.  at least you can be a school teacher when you get out of music college.

after that bizarre summer, i went and played in an international masterclass, all the way in orlando, florida with big name faculties.  it was such a surprise to everyone when they ask what im studying in school and i would answer: elementary music education.  at least they didnt know that i failed the entrance theory exam for undergrad program as i couldnt even really understand the questions- i have never taken music theory at that point, age 19.  luckily i was appreciated for where i was and left the conference with invitation to come and study in cologne, germany (which i didnt take on, as i couldnt bear to struggle through another language, after learning english and french simultaneously when i moved to canada).

it was a fortunate thing that i left yyz to go study in the states, specifically in kansas.  my advisers knew very little of my past and based on what they saw, they continued to push and nurture me.  it was a heck of a learning curve from taking remedial basic theory course to tackle 900 courses straight on from the first semester of master's prog*  i never read so much and learned much. i was the youngest and clearly the imbecile of the class at the beginning.  haha. it does make me snicker a bit as my colleagues mustve wondered where i came from-

*in north america, the first digit usually describes the difficulty level: 1st year courses would be in 100s, 2nd year in 200s etc., master's will start from 500s-600s, and 800s-900s being reserved for doctoral courses, usually in seminar formats.

i suppose i caught up with the crowd and  by the time i finished my phd, things were at an even ground.  at this point, i do like to think that im capable and able to research and learn, that i am apt and i do like what i do.

however, whenever i see the young kids who came from musical families and the likes (including habitual musical families and kids who were encouraged/begged to stay in music and play etc), it does make me wonder: who would i be if i had that particular sorts of supports?  minnow was studying bartok and berg at chets at age 18.  at age 19, i wasnt even capable of understanding  one of the most basic question: complete this melody harmonization in SATB, from tonic to dominant, back to tonic.  while the kids became veteran of creme de creme festivals such as banff, tanglewood and interlochen, i was busy working making pocket money for concerts tickets and such.  often people speak longingly about their childhood grand pianos (still at home) or first 'real' instruments, i wonder what it must be like to have an instrument of one's own ( i do not have one).

listening to a musical discussion between two generations this evening, it makes me wonder: where am i and where would i have been? would life been different if my parents simply agreed to let me audition at a specialty middle school? what if i grew up in a house where i was supported and i had my own grand piano?  if my progress from my twenties was jump started a bit earlier, would i be in a different place?

quite rare but i feel envious of such things, once in awhile.  i try not to be bitter- as even the most supported kids never had a guarantee that they would succeed in field of arts in general.  and no, it's not my parents' obligation to meet every wish of mine. they certainly gave me plenty- a good balance of wish list and a vigilant recommendation list. who knows? i couldve been a burn-out.  mostly, it's amusing to think- a small monkey whose life did not revolve around music at all, had no clue that she would be working in music at all- playing, recording, producing, teaching, house managing, you name it.  the road not taken, then road that was built. the roads found once youve given up. the roads we traveled while being unaware. interesting lives we weave.

1 comment:

  1. the fat controllerJune 13, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    so many points and branch lines on these railways, random crossings, missed trains, late trains, mystery trains.. never knowing where they will end. It's a bit like British Rail. I'm glad our trains pulled into Banff station.