In 1984 I moved to Australia. I really wanted to get into the WA Academy of Performing Arts known to many as the WAAPA. I was also searching for other groups interested in Opera, as nobody in Perth knew who I was. I was privileged to go to many classical music concerts and one such concert featured a clarinet player. After the concert I was introduced to the musician and I told him how much I had enjoyed his concerto. He looked at me with absolute distain and told me it was a sonata and then ignored me. The enjoyment I had felt turned to shame and brought up many old feelings of not being good enough. I didn’t react outwardly but in the years that followed, I did study music full time at the WAAPA and later the Queensland Conservatorium of Music. I learned what separated each musical period and yes I studied sonata form as well as instrumentation, arranging, orchestration, different types of opera, dance suites, renaissance madrigals, the introduction of various instruments into an orchestra etc. I learned how to write a critical analysis of a symphony with the best of them and I continue to learn.
I have never made the uneducated comment again of mistaking a concerto for a sonata in the context of classical music. I have however learned a lot about contemporary music from my students. Some might think that as a teacher, I would find this humbling. Actually I find it musical because music is a conversation and every musician expresses himself or herself differently coming from their own completely valid experiences. Music is also an incredible power and so it’s important to keep powerful communication open and not disempower by dismissing others or overpower by ignoring others. Balance is essential to every part of music making.
It’s a pity I didn’t know that in 1984. I was young, lacking in confidence and I was in a new place with nobody to ask. There was no google in those days! My strategy was to learn as much as I could so that I would never be caught out like that again. Actually, there was nothing wrong with me in the first place! We all know what we know and the non-musician knows what they like and what they don’t like. Comments that suggest that there is something we need to learn before we can have permission to say what we find enjoyable when listening to music are very unfortunate.
So for me, some reclaiming has happened. I think reclamation is a common theme in my teaching studio as I enjoy the privilege of watching singers and musicians unlock those barriers to creativity that have sometimes been hidden away for many years.