On the first Monday in May each year, schools across Canada celebrate the impact of music and music education with Music Monday. To mark the occasion, we invited several prominent Canadian musicians across a variety of genres to pen a letter to a music teacher who has greatly influenced their career.
Here, Sarah Slean writes a letter to her teacher, Professor Christina Petrowska Quilico of York University.
Dear Professor Petrowska,
With a churning stomach and quaking limbs, I fumbled through Beethoven, sped through Kabalevsky, and tried my best to get lost in a Chopin nocturne.
After such a shaky audition, I was completely stunned to discover that I had been admitted into your Master Class Performance program at York.
I was one of only two first-years in the class, and even she intimidated the hell out of me. All year I struggled, feeling wretchedly inferior to the other students who could play faster, louder, stronger, more impressively than I could, every time. It was abundantly clear – I was the worst. This killed me, and I worked diligently on my Rachmaninoff prelude, but more often than not, during my long practice sessions, I would end up writing songs and mysteriously the allotted three hours evaporated.
Despite my dismal showing each week and the snickers of my fellow classmates, you saw something in me and believed you could bring it out. Although I ultimately abandoned the path of studying classical piano, I will never forget one thing you said to me – one thing that, coming from you, made all the difference to me as a musician, and gave me the confidence to pursue it in my own way. It was this: “Sarah, all the technical stuff, I can teach you that. The other ‘something’? That can't be taught. And you've got it.”
Listen to Professor Petrowska’s response to Slean’s letter.
You can read more letters and responses at our Music Monday page. And let us know about the influential music teacher in your life.
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Letter to my teacher: Suzie Vinnick
Lenny Breau’s first jazz teacher, Bob Erlendson
Music Monday: coalition for music education
Music Monday with Luke Doucet
on Apr 30, 2012