Music Festival Mayhem
A Violin Teacher's Frantic Struggle Against Time
It's past midnight. An inhuman hour reserved for zombies, shift workers and
other monsters. The unnatural light from my CRT monitor is etching pits in
my retinas as I desperately try to make tomorrow's hectic schedule seem more palatable. No matter how I shuffle the little blocks of time in my time
management software, the gristly truth glares at me in bright yellow.
Tomorrow will be absolutely insane.
My young violin students and I, their teacher, are immersed in two weeks of
music festival. We have been preparing music for this event since last fall
and have been registered to play since January. Back then it all seemed so
simple: Choose several challenging pieces for the kids to perform for a
professional, big city adjudicator so the kids will earn well-deserved high
marks and have a jolly good time making music together.
There was snow on the ground and the Christmas lights were still up when we
discussed festival plans, knowing May was an eternity away. "We have plenty
of time to learn the pieces to a state of flawlessness," I said smugly.
I remember very distinctly filling out the forms only months ago and
laughing at my earlier reluctance to sign up too many students owing to
experiences the music festival previous. I vaguely recalled a feeling of
mild discomfort at the stress in scheduling, then proceeded with glee to
sign up a page full of entries. Several students more than in past years.
"This year will be simpler because we'll be better prepared," I declared to
myself proudly. All students were instructed to begin work on their chosen
pieces and asked to have their first rehearsal with their piano accompanist
by the 2nd week in February.
No such luck. The students and their parents had understandably put it off
due to busy schedules and optimism to do it "later when there was more time"
and suddenly it was Spring Break. The kids returned from holidays suntanned and rehearsal-less. "That's ok," I assured myself through clenched teeth. "We still have a couple months. I'll just have to be more assertive."
This degenerated into desperate nagging sessions every week in lessons,"Have you set up a rehearsal with the accompanist?" Again, life continued to
intrude, but now our accompanist was becoming full-booked from other
last-minute rehearsals. The phone tag began as she and the students were
caught in a perpetual loop of voice mail messages. Miraculously some
rehearsals were scheduled and attended and things were looking up for
Then something unthinkable happened. The clouds parted as the sun came out
and simultaneously SOCCER started up. Like a thief in the night the sport
greedily snatched up my students five afternoons each week and noon Saturdays. They started showing up for lessons 5 and 10 minutes late,
dressed in sweaty, grass-stained uniforms and exhausted. Soccer practices
and games began replacing violin practice and rehearsals.
Luckily the pleasant weather had a euphoric effect on me, the teacher, and I
found ways to deal with the looming deadline of festival by working in my
garden after lessons. It numbed the pain of learning yet another rehearsal
with the accompanist had to be canceled due to another match or a hand
injury which left the student unable to play music that day.
That only lasted so long. The music festival did creep up and now all of a
sudden violinists are scrambling about in chaos like ants evading an
imminent flood. Rehearsals are being booked at bizarre intervals, meals are
being skipped and fingertips are sore from unprecedented use.
I'm insanely busy and delirious from the activity, but it's worth it because
music is being learned and absorbed in time for festival! Mwah Ha Ha!
In the coming days of festival I will play coach to the players as they
warm-up prior to their adjudications. "Say your introduction slowly and
clearly. Make eye contact with the accompanist before you start. Space your
eighth notes evenly and remember to use vibrato on the high notes. Focus and
keep the energy up to the very end. Don't forget to bow at the end and
acknowledge your accompanist."
I will sit in the audience and smile for them, nodding my head in time to
their music. I will pat them on the back when they do well and hug them when
they look like they might cry. I will walk them and their proud parents out
to their cars afterwards and comment on how pleased I am with all their hard
work leading up to that day. I will feel so good about the whole thing, even
though it was stressful at times.
I will breathe a sigh of relief that it's finished and make a small
suggestion to myself: try not to be this involved next year...
Then, next snowy January I will sit back, cozy and content, and fill out a
form with twice as many entries than before. For years to come this cycle is
will keep me and my students on our toes, learning the valuable lessons of
dedication, persistence... and time management!