(Note: a music festival, in this context, is a competition where students sing in classes divided by age and repertoire – eg. French art song, Girls, 16 & under)
I knew, going into this festival, that it might be my last, but sometimes, knowing isn’t enough. A friend of mine said to me recently that I was a doubting Thomas, and I needed proof of things, and that’s what this festival turned out to be.
During the teaching year, music teachers hunker down in their studios and don’t come up for air, so the festival’s a chance to see each other and talk shop. I’ve been way out of the loop as far as our local arts scene goes (and loving it, I must say), so I was rather nervous about stepping back in. I don’t do drama well, and in music, there’s always some level of drama going on because as a whole, singing teachers tend to have rather tricky egos – which is why I’d always, always rather be the outsider and wild card than in the thick of things.
Anyhow…I got to talking to one of the other teachers, a woman who I’ve always liked. Seems that there’s a decided lack of singing teachers in our community right now, and, judging from some of the singing going on, some of the ones who are teaching really shouldn’t be – boy, there’s some weird stuff happening. Anyhow, my teacher-friend wondered if I was planning to take on more students.
I had to think about it. I sat there through the entire festival thinking about starting up a studio again, and what I realized was that I was being administered a cosmic test of sorts. Was I really serious about stepping away from teaching? Was I really serious about forging a career as a writer and living and breathing that life? Because, one of the things I know about myself is that I can’t do half-full. This past year, being divided between teaching and writing has been really hard because the artistic process for me is so intense and consuming, which is why I spend my down-time doing things that ground me – riding, Reiki, hiking, gardening, knitting…stuff that connects me back to the earth and myself.
But, sitting there in the theatre, I was tempted. I saw those kids up there on stage and couldn’t help wanting to step back in and fix what was going on. And as soon as I thought those words, I smiled, because….Hello, Ego! I’ve missed you – not so much! So when teacher-friend said, “Maybe I should come and have some lessons with you,” I said, “You know, why don’t you just come for a sing rather than a lesson? I’ll see if there’s anything I can help you out with. I don’t want to be your teacher, but I’m happy to be an extra set of eyes and ears for you.”
The thing is, I’ll always be a singer and musician. Trying to give up music would be akin to cutting off an arm, or losing one of my senses. My relationship with music is one of the things that defines who I am. But, I’ve made my peace with music as a job, and I think, and hope, that by doing that, I’ll never lose the love of writing like I did with music (one of the darkest, most painful periods of my life. I’m not sure I’ve completely recovered from that, and it could be that I never will, but again, that’s part of who I am, so perhaps it’s not a matter of recovering but owning that wound – a battle scar, so to speak, and I will fight to maintain my love of writing with all the experience those battle scars have given me). This fall, I plan to take a few singing lessons of my own – not to learn, not to prepare for performance, but solely with the goal of singing for myself. I might even take up the cello again. We’ll see.
But, I think I’ve truly made peace with music and teaching, and I am so relieved and thankful to be in this place.
And with that, I’m off to shovel horse manure. There’s nothing like shoveling poop to put things back in perspective!