It's been almost two years since we began monthly or bi-monthly violin lesson trips to Calgary for Erin. She'd outgrown the local teachers, had taken five months off lessons entirely after the sudden retirement of her Nelson teacher, and had then discovered that she really did have the drive and motivation to pursue violin. She had an excellent summer-workshop relationship with a terrific Calgary-based teacher and seemed willing to do almost anything in order to be able to study with her. So we started doing the big drive. Once a month, except when scheduling was impossible.
Alas, 8 or 10 lessons a year are not sufficient for a 15-year-old who is considering a performance career. The world of string playing is extremely competitive; the kids Erin will be compared to if/when she applies to music schools are practicing three hours a day (as she sometimes does) but are also getting weekly private lessons, chamber group, technique classes, regular opportunities to work with accompanists and perform, youth orchestras. Mostly they're getting very focused attention to the refinement of their technique through weekly diligent overseeing by teachers who are preparing them for future careers in music. She needs to be getting the same type of experience.
Erin's current lesson arrangement is really that of a self-taught violinist getting occasional bits of input on repertoire from guest teachers. That's how it's felt for everyone involved, I think. It's just not going to be enough to ensure a performance career. If that's what she wants, which she seems to.
Then there's piano. She has had little to no interest in piano for the past 18 months. Practicing has averaged half an hour a week. Her long-time teacher has a little experience teaching at her level, but isn't a performer herself, doesn't play at this level, and has no accompanying expertise. Accompanying is really where Erin's interest, what there is of it, lies. Lessons have been spotty due to travel (by both Erin and her teacher) and lack of motivation.
At the beginning of this week Erin had finally decided to announce her decision to quit piano lessons. She's doing the Advanced Piano program at the Valhalla Summer School of Music again this summer, but is feeling like a hypocrite, having played almost no piano since last fall. I had a short conversation with her teacher explaining that it was pretty clear this was Erin's swan song on piano.
This week Erin has been taken aside for chats by both a visiting piano professor and by her Calgary violin teachers. The [pretty well-known] piano guy has worked with her in chamber groups for two summers now and basically told her that if she was indeed interested in pursuing music at the post-secondary level he'd love to work with her ... especially in collaborative piano (accompanying), which she's clearly got a talent for. He asked how old she was, how many more years of high school she has left, gave her his e-mail address. She didn't have the heart to tell him that her interest in pursuing music at university was not in piano, or that she'd just decided to finally quit piano. Truth be told she was very flattered, and rightly so. "Darn!" she told me afterwards. "He just messed me up. I'd finally decided to quit, and now this!?"
Her violin teachers, a husband-and-wife team, have been up-front about her prospects for ongoing musical development. If she wants to really dig in and work for a music career she needs weekly lessons. Or close. They've offered to let her stay with them in Calgary. Wow. Maybe this is something she can do part-time, for a few days every other week or something, busing back and forth? She's now old enough to travel the long bus routes without an adult escort (younger children can travel unaccompanied but only on daytime routes less than 5 hours). Does she feel ready to move? Not really, because not having school or some other program to slot right into, she would be a kid living with two very very very busy adults who can't really act in loco parentis. It would be a lot of arduous travelling for her to go back and forth like that, but maybe she could do it? She could probably continue with her self-directed schooling here, using the Facilitated Learning Lab when she's in town, working from afar when she's in Calgary.
But how would she do chamber music? Or get orchestral experience? And could she keep up her two wonderful choirs?
And what about piano?
Have I ever used this many question marks in a blog post?