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, Hawksley Workman writes a letter to his teacher, Mr. Ian Halton.
Dear Mr. Halton,
I’m writing to share some memories, and to celebrate you and the many great things you brought into my life all those years ago. And it was a while ago, almost 25 years now. Like most great teachers, I learned so much more than just the subject you were there to teach. In fact, it seems like music was in the background of the bigger lessons going on during a most impressionable time in my life. When I think of it, you were such a force in celebrating and nurturing individuality.
You may well have been the first “adult” I knew who was living life completely on your own terms. You ran your house on a car engine, eventually moving to solar power, decades before “green living” became part of popular vernacular. You were a scientist, and an amateur astronomer complete with a hand-built observatory where the roof slid off on runners to open up to the wonder and surprises of the night sky. You kept animals: ferrets, skunks, ducks, geese, even harbouring an injured wolf until an appropriate permanent home was found. You were an avid kayaker and camper. You were, in a phrase, a pretty odd duck. But proudly so, and you instilled in me that the lesser worn path bore more adventure and potential opportunities to live and learn, and I’ve lived my life with those guidelines ever since.
The archetypal, rigid piano teacher with whacking stick for stubborn fingers was certainly not your way, and lucky for me. I was a terrible piano student. I had a natural ease with music, which made it hard for me to stick to the "conservatory" plan. My ear was good, so I could listen to you play through a piece and then I could pretty much play it back. It meant that my reading never really advanced. And when my memory of a piece failed me, I’d make a bit up. You’d always catch me and ask me to play back my "improvised bars" as they were written. You never said what I had played was wrong but rather you’d comment with intrigue that what I had played was "interesting."
The day you came for our lesson, and caught me playing the drums (and by that time I was already pretty good) was the day you started a band with my brother and I that toured churches and old folks homes. You knew that I was never going to be a concert pianist. I’d avoid practice but have compositions of my own instead, and you’d always respect my path. I wasn’t messing around, I was passionate, and you knew that and encouraged it. A lesser teacher would have forced the situation, possibly killing a natural ability, but you adjusted to me and provided only support. When it came time to compete in the “Kiwanis-type” music competitions, you successfully petitioned on my behalf to have "drum solo," "jazz recorder performance" and "original pop composition" categories added for me to do my thing. There’s so much more I could say, but I think you get the picture.
To this day, I’m eternally grateful for your support and encouragement and for being an eccentric who fit into the world in your own way, and who showed a way for me to exist in my own way on my own terms. Thank you.
Play buttonListen to Mr.Halton’s response to Workman’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.
Letter to my teacher: Royal Wood (with response from his secondary school teacher, Rob Roy)
Letter to my teacher: Cadence Weapon (with response from his music mentor/uncle, Brett Miles)
Letter to my teacher: Sarah Slean (with response from her teacher, Juno-winner Christina Petrowska Quilico of York University)
Lenny Breau’s first jazz teacher, Bob Erlendson
Music Monday: coalition for music education
Music Monday with Luke Doucet
on May 02, 2012