It’s been a bit of a tricky start to this academic year (understatement). For starters, a colleague died suddenly on the first day of classes, someone who had worked for us for many years, and who worked alongside so many of the students I care for in my opera class. To offer those students (and ourselves) comfort in those first days of class–normally a time of excitement, anticipation and even celebration–was my privilege and my duty. But it was also a challenge, needing to stay as calm as we could, while also honouring the memory of a comrade, and also acknowledging that one of the best medicines for such times is the work we do.
Next up was the collapse of one of our most treasured local arts organizations, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, just this past weekend. The KWSO has been a vital partner for us at Laurier, offering countless opportunities to our students, being an excellent recruitment tool for us, but also an employer of many of our contract faculty and many of our alumni. In these times where the arts seem more necessary than ever, it is especially disheartening to see such a time-honoured institution crumble.
What is our answer to such things? What tools can we bring? I have been reminding my students of the importance of their artistic voice: not just to themselves, but to the world. If we are to feel things deeply, if we are to communicate and resonate with others, if we are to bring any kind of solace to our communities, we need to be in touch with our authentic artist selves. We need to be bold. We need to be resilient, imaginative, brave. We need strong backs and wild, creative hearts. We need to move past the fear and misunderstanding, and use our voices to melt hardened spirits, awaken hope.
These statements may sound like tropes, empty words. But I believe them. It’s what I hang on to in these trying times. I remind myself of the gratitude I feel for working with these young people who are so wise, so intuitive, so thoughtful, so caring. They are willing to try, to grow, to learn, to play. We try to give them the space and tools each day to do so, and they reward us with their courage. The tools are: Breath. Sound. Playful creativity. Invention. Humour. Experimentation. Willingness to risk, permission to fail. We carry on. Because we must. Because it matters. We have the tools we need.