On July 21st, 95 musicians from all over Canada will don their concert attire, walk on to the stage of Alumni Hall at the University of Western Ontario, and open the 2011 tour of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. Before arriving here in London, many of these musicians had never met each other. Few of them have ever performed the symphonies that are now expected to be polished to perfection. Simply put, in the span a few weeks a group of people will emerge as a top notch orchestra.
My goal for blogging is not so much to track the progress of musicians leading up to that down beat on July 21st as it is to try to answer the following question: who are we before the tuxedoes go on, and how do we transform when we arrive on stage?
For three days this week we’ve been lucky enough to be joined by CBC broadcaster Tom Allen, whose main purpose here has been to discuss the repertoire we will be performing. Last night Mr. Allen led a different type of discussion though: a round table-style interview with some of the faculty members. We learned how everyone achieves success in a different way, but that success does not guarantee happiness. Perhaps most thought provoking was hearing a current professional concertmaster admit he’s not enjoying the orchestral setting as he once did. And so we learned he’s scrapping that life to become a freelancer again.
Now, it should be noted that a life in classical music is seldom glamorous, nor is it commonly stable. The only two fields that really guarantee a steady pay check are orchestral playing, and teaching at an institution. Lots of musicians would feel that life as a freelancer is rather risky. For that reason, most of us in the audience during that talk had the following realization: is music worth all the sacrifices that go with it?
The NYO is important for me because it allows me to face that question and formulate an answer. Just over two weeks into this program, I have an answer: music is absolutely worth it. For me though, it’s not actually about the performance on stage. In future blogs I’ll write about the thrill of playing and the feeling of a good performance. While it is very exciting, the reason I chose to follow music is that I love the adventures it brings. Every time I play in an orchestra I meet new people,get to travel to a new city, learn different styles of playing, and I get to push myself to improve my own playing. There’s always something new, and that’s the real thrill for me. So now that I’ve met everyone here and had a chance to look around London, I’ve only affirmed my thoughts: I love music, and I can’t imagine having a better life. Here’s to a summer filled with more adventures and incredible excitement.