While the SVI is circumscribed within the local K-12 public school, the VSSM week currently taking place is a metastatic entity infiltrating two adjacent villages. It is almost three times as big, with string players, pianists and choristers, adult amateurs, music appreciation enthusiasts and young children looking for a first exposure to musical activities. Lessons take place in the school, the nursing home activity room, a variety of community halls and buildings, private homes, vacant storefronts, a firehall, churches and a dental clinic. You may be wondering what becomes of the dentist during the VSSM week. He takes the week off of dentistry and instead drives the courtesy shuttle bus back and forth between the two villages. Everything here is transformed for the week. Music pours out of open doors everywhere.
Erin is enrolled as a piano student during the VSSM week. She'd really rather have focused on violin, but at VSSM for a variety of reasons the piano program is a better fit for her. And it's really her only opportunity to put the primary focus on her 'second instrument.' This year she opted to do chamber music on piano rather than picking up her violin in the afternoon to do orchestra. It turned out to be a lucky choice -- she's been placed in the most advanced piano chamber group with a bunch of very advanced string students and is being coached by some pretty dynamite Winnipegers. She's doing a full six-hour a day program which includes 90 minutes of Adult Choir. Fiona, Sophie and I are just singing in Family Choir -- no string stuff at all for us. Noah opted to sing in the Adult Choir, his first foray into sort-of-sight-singing and four-part arrangements. (I say 'sort of' because the director does help the weaker readers by giving some by-ear help.) He's loving that. And he's also managing to squeeze in private coaching on viola and is doing the "lower advanced" orchestra, playing the Holst "St. Paul's Suite."
All of which means a lot of back-and-forthing. Today, for example, went like this. New Denver at 9, then home. New Denver at 12, then home. Silverton at 12:50, and New Denver at 1:00, the back to Silverton at 2:30, back to New Denver at 2:40, then home. Silverton at 3:45. Home at 4:30. Silverton again at 5:00 and home again. Silverton again at 6:30 pm and home one last time. We opted to give the 7 pm concert in Silverton a miss tonight, after going to last night's. In between driving back and forth I cooked meals, made bag lunches, dealt with the garden and the animals and pulled noxious weeds. The usual stuff.
Is it worth it? After the SVI week the VSSM often seems a bit too chaotic and impersonal for our liking. If we had to go away and pay lots of money to do it we would just stick with the SVI. But here are all these great players and teachers in the midst of our tiny rural villages, and so we can treat it as a smorgasbord and simply pick and choose the classes and teachers that suit us. We don't have to do the full-meal deal. And even considering the taxiing back and forth, it works really well for us.
For instance, Erin's having a heck of a week. Tomorrow she's being coached as a pianist in her chamber quintet by the concertmaster of the Winnipeg Symphony alongside some phenomenal young string players. And about an hour later she's having a violin lesson from the same woman. The advanced piano teacher / coach (the aforementioned violinist's husband) has apparently been quite impressed with her so far this week. And today she was invited into an amazing teen choir based out of Nelson by the director of the Adult Choir. Invited isn't exactly the word. Erin confessed an interest and Allison seemed almost in raptures that she'd be willing to come all that way to sing with them. ("Gone for two months right before the spring tour? Don't worry ... we'll find a way to make it work!")
Erin's life seems rather charmed lately for reasons I don't entirely understand. Don't get me wrong -- I love her dearly and think she's amazing. But I'm stunned that so many other people feel the same way about her when she's so reserved and seemingly difficult to get to know. But people seem to like her ... and these days she seems to actually like people back. She's looking for challenge and adventure and it seems to be finding her.