As I reflect back on this fall semester, I am reminded of my formative years in pre-college and college. Summer festivals felt like a given, reading chamber music with friends for fun at a gathering was the norm, and getting student tickets to go see a role model play Beethoven concerto happened frequently. They now feel like a privilege that I took for granted.
As I started my first semester at a new university, my students and I shared a lot of the same sentiments and emotions: uncertainty, excitement, fear, and doubt. I pretended that I knew what I was doing with convictions, but the truth is that I was constantly unsure. Should I really be teaching in person? Is working on violin technique the most relevant ways my students and I can contribute to our future? What does the future hold for classical musicians? I knew that I didn’t have the magic answers, but I marched on, hoping that maybe I could be the constant that my students depended on during a time where nothing is constant, and that maybe practicing violin technique IS actually relevant to our future.
In my opinion, we were one of the more fortunate institutions to be able to have in-person instructions. I was initially a little surprised at how many students decided to come to Ann Arbor to study in person, with a very grim possibility that they may get sent home any day. In-person or virtual, my students came to their lessons week after week, excited about their new practice routines or frustrated with that one shift. It struck me that it was just the way I had been as a student. Despite of the situation we are in, the students are just as passionate about tuning that first e-minor chord, matching articulation, or validating their newfound deep musical ideas, as I once was as a young student. I can confidently say that they kept me motivated to be my best self this year. I said this when I was hosting one of the chamber music concerts and at my studio recital recently: I am inspired by the students’ artistry, hard work and resilience to study and perform music safely and responsibly. I meant every word of that and more.
I don’t pretend or imagine to really know what it is like to be a music student - or any young student for that matter - during this unprecedented time. The pandemic has definitely worsened the quality of my life, but I can positively say that no one robbed me of the most malleable and impressionable years as a young student and musician.
As an educator, I know that I am supposed to teach and lead my students by example. I thank you, all of my students, for teaching and leading me to adjust and evolve with the current situations. I am not sure what the future holds for classical musicians, but I know that with these future musicians, we are in great hands. At a faculty roundtable a couple weeks ago in a discussion of assigning more music by underrepresented groups of people, a worried student pointed out that teachers are more comfortable only assigning what they’ve studied and already know. I confidently said that, no, we aren’t just teaching what we know. We are researchers and scholars, and we are constantly learning and searching for more, as any scholar would. My goal is to live by those words I said in that round-table, whether it is with assigning music of BIPOC composers, or finding creative ways to cope with the pandemic. Thank you all, for teaching me that we continuously evolve to thrive in different circumstances, and so will the classical music world.
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