“Outside the opera house” (uploaded from Snappa.com, Sept. 28, 2023)

There are moments these days when I feel as incongruous as this country guitarist outside an opera house–which is not an opera house as I know it–where maybe he belongs more than I sometimes feel I do in this new and very-much-changed artistic world. I have ruminated often of late–in these pages and elsewhere–about the future of the performing arts, and opera, classical music and the type of voice teaching I was trained in: what its value is, whether it matters, if it’s worth doing or not. More and more we’re talking about AI and whether artists today can and will embrace it (or become quickly irrelevant), and we’re thinking about how we can quickly and deftly change course in the way we train musicians, so that they can have viable and meaningful careers like we did.

Such thoughts keep me awake at night, and I dance, as Rohinton Mistry once said, in a fine balance between hope and despair. On days like today, where I sat (actually stood and danced, to be honest!) in a room full of joyful, improvising young musicians, making music with our equally young and vibrant new composition prof (and jazz pianist extraordinaire) Kevin Day and this week’s artist-in-residence, rapper Shad, I felt inspired, thrilled, and energized, my heart full. “Yes! Anything is possible!”, I thought. And felt that resoundingly in my heart.

On days like yesterday, where I felt disheartened by various bits of news, heard of students who were despondent and feeling hopeless, and felt helpless to make the kinds of drastic curricular changes that I feel need to be made (not infrequently with pushback and fear-mongering from naysayers) in order to properly educate and excite the musicians of the future, I want to just go Erda-like back to the bowels of the earth to sleep where I cannot any longer hear the clamour of the desolate world above.

I need to keep reminding myself, however, of the delightful young folk amongst whom I walk each day. Yes, they are sometimes down in the dumps, but in the finest moments they are so creative, innovative, and daring it could (and sometimes does) make me weep. They are so brave. All I need is to give them the least bit of prompting and some moral support, and they take flights of fancy I could never have imagined. I invited those in my studio last week to create their own artist mission statements (after this was modelled for me by Marcelle Gauvin from Berklee this summer at Shenandoah), and we have been using those as their True North ever since. I keep reminding them they are the Way-Showers (thanks for that, Marcelle) and that they must Run Toward the Danger (thanks, Sarah Polley) and do hard things. This is the stuff that matters: the storytelling, the opening of the heart, the telling of truths. If they can keep doing this, keep showing up and sharing their gifts, I shall not have sung in vain.