conservatory, cellists and the blessing of un-cool

“…the glory of art is in receipt more than critique.”

Good friend and fellow blogger, Barbara Lane, has directed me to some very cool online places for inspiration, laughs, and encouragement. One site that has particularly seized my attention is Art House America. It is the brainchild of record producer, Charlie Peacock and his wife, Andi Ashworth and is staffed by more than a few stellar writers, Barb being among them as an intern. A few months ago, blogger Jennifer Strange submitted a piece entitled “Pride and Play”, which outlined her life as a classical violinist. The piece struck a chord (groan) with me. What follows is a fleshier version of my response to it.

“Brava! I, like you, have lived on the edges of un-cool. I was just acceptable enough to be part of the horde of “normal” kids but too artsy and quirky to dwell among the immortals. By the time I got to high school, I was popular but certainly no A-lister. My insistent intensity wed to a host of personal oddities denied entrance among the luminaries. Who cares? I thought. I had plenty of friends and hangers on, enough to get me through the harrowing hell that high school can be. My feigned demeanor as a Bohemian philosopher-poet, indy-intellectual-wannabe coupled with low blood pressure worked against me. I was a good faker, though, and learned to converse well among those of the socialite nosebleed section.

Being a musician helped. The sense of humor bought some street cred, too. These discoveries, although transient and unstable, at least provided me sufficient groundwork upon which to build a shaky cabin of self-esteem. But, unlike many of them, I was no male debutante-in-training. Instead, I was a gangly singer adopted by a blue-collar brewery worker and housewife into a 900 square foot bungalow in oil ‘n redneck rich Calgary, Alberta.

I’m especially grateful that none of the above provided enough of an obstacle to obtaining a full scholarship to Mount Royal College Conservatory where, as a Vocal Performance major, I studied art song, oratorio, opera and the dreamy female cellists in the symphony. And, since most of our professors were symphony musicians, we would get free tickets to almost anything they played – from Faure to Brahms, Shostakovich to Prokofiev, Schoenberg to Beethoven. It was all so heady and…cool…well, except for the part where my buddies and I would fight for the best seats high above the orchestra where the best sight lines were for staring down the daring, black gowns of the cellists in question. But I digress.

I can think of no reason to regret the loss of elitist membership in favor of the sublime connection to the world’s great music. Moreover, music was the backdrop for my awakening to Christian faith after graduation from high school. For this, and your piece reminding all of us of the uniting and redemptive power of music, I can be forever grateful. Besides, why do they always get to decide what’s cool?”

Yours in recitative, R

2 thoughts on “conservatory, cellists and the blessing of un-cool

  1. The older I get the more deeply I appreciate my unconventional upbringing–toddling off to the public library with my Mom to check out the classical masterpiece of the week. My favorite was Brahms’ 1st symphony, and I can’t hear it now without picturing the little phonograph where it spun, and me, doll in my arms seated close by. Once I was home sick from school and my Mom handed me a libretto and put on an opera, and I listened, enthralled, to its entirety. I was 8 years old and I thought it was normal. Today i think it was cool.

    1. Indeed. I’ve been a highland bagpiper most of my life. I wear a dress (kilt). I’ve been a guitarist since I was 12 years old and wear acrylic nails. I’m a little left of center and have an earring. I cry like a little girl every time I hear the opening Kyrie of Schubert’s Mass in Ab, Bruckner’s Ave Maria or Brahms’ Piano Intermezzo in A. I haven’t been fishing since I was 12 and love to read weird books. I’m a man’s man!

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