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Monday, August 18, 2008


Tegan, 2008 national winner of the music festival association of Canada strings competition.  


i've been trippin'.   to Edmonton, capital city of the province of Alberta.  the annual national music festival finals were held there this year.  over 120,000 amateur musicians across Canada competed at the local level, to earn a chance to play in their provincial competitions.  the winners from each provincial competition were recommended to the national finals, held last week in Edmonton.  

competitions are not something i normally get excited about. i'm not a big fan of competitions between artists.   i encourage my students to compete, on the local level, to do their best, and sometimes they are recommended on to the next levels, but i tell them not to take it all too seriously.  a judge's opinion of how they play is, after all, only one person's opinion of how they played that particular piece at that particular time.   there's value in hearing what he or she has to say, but it's important to keep things in perspective.  it's all very subjective.   what's really important, i tell them, is the music, and conveying your love of it to the listener.  it's nice when they do well, but they should never let a disappointing outcome hinder their musical development, if that's where their hearts are.  

i taught Tegan for a number of years when she was very young. she was one of those who consistently did well at competitions. she has been a national finalist before; this was not her first national competition.  i think it was held in Halifax last year. this year the event was being held within accessible driving distance.  Edmonton was do-able, so i made the trip, with a good friend of mine, who used to accompany Tegan on piano, to lend support and hear her play again.  Tegan is now 18, living in southern alberta, and has been getting instruction from top string players all over the world these past few years.   really a remarkable girl in many ways, she's developed an amazing network of peers and mentors, and remains very down-to-earth and earnest.  she feels the responsibility that goes with her gift and takes nothing for granted.  

her mother told me the story of how she got the instrument she's holding in this picture.  after learning, and excelling on violin for 10 years or so, she tried viola, and discovered an immediate affinity with the instrument. she was looking to buy a really nice viola; the one she had been playing was a rental.  in this particular luthier's shop, she played the more conventional models on display, putting them through their paces as is the custom, and concentrating on the tone and responses of each one.  after listening and watching for a while, the luthier slipped into the back room, returning shortly with this - an asymmetrical work of art with a carven rose for a scroll.... and a luscious, gentle tone that's hard to forget once you've heard it.  it brought me to tears listening to Tegan play her solo on it.  after she had begun to play it, her mother tells me, the viola's creator turned to his assistant, and said softly, "it's found a home."  he then sold it to her for significantly less than the ticketed price.  

Tegan is the first violist ever to win this competition; since the inception of the music festival association early in the 20th century,  first place has always gone to a violinist or a cellist.   there's a stereotype in orchestral circles that the best violists are musicians who weren't quite good enough to be the best violinists.  it's not true, but stereotypes are like that.  she's proving them wrong.  

i wish i could take more credit for helping to produce that unforgettable music, but my contribution was at the very early stages, when only a few of us saw the large gift in the small girl.  fully developing a gift like that requires more skill and experience than i have to offer, so i recommended her to my betters when the time came, and happily became one of her many groupies.  i do take some small pride in the knowledge that she had got the good start she needed.  i'm told she had no bad habits to break, or sloppy technique to correct when she went on to the next teachers.  

she's beginning university this fall at a major music school, with a nice fat scholarship.  all of her groupies are expecting great things from her.  

12 comments:

Cicero Sings said...

What a lovely account of this talented gal. I got teary in the part about her obtaining that viola.

There is such a spiritual side, heart and soul, to music and to be able to convey that to the listener is a real art in deed.

susan said...

I felt the same as Cicero when I read about the magical viola moment.

She looks to be a very beautiful young woman. What a delightful story and I'm so glad you got to be there to see her win the competition.

Zee said...

Great story. You should be proud of yourself of having placed the seeds, or helped them sprout in this young lady. It is the beginning that is crucial, and you were the one who made it come about.
Yeah, I locked at the picture at first and said to myself: What the heck is this?!? Was this viola made in Alberta, Canada - or somewhere thereabouts?
All myths by the way, have a kernel of truth, not to take away from this seemingly brilliant lady...
The more squeaky violin has just such a vast repertoire in comparison to the viola, maybe that is part of what created the myth.
I wish her all the best on her journey though, the turf is tough out there.

Zee said...

PS.
Interesting how this viola is stringed. The C and G string seem to hover towards the bridge, while D an A doesn't. Ha, very interesting indeed.
You know what I hated in school? I sometimes had to substitute viola parts on the violin in orchestra; the different clef drove me nuts!

gfid said...

cicero - it's funny about music, isn't it.... there's so much science and math involved in it, but it's that spirit, heart and soul that make the difference.

su - she is a lovely young lady, in every way. i'm still in a fuzzy pink cloud over it all. her picture is going in my teaching studio to inspire other small children with big dreams.

zee - i enjoy teaching small kids, and the feeling seems to be mutual. and i agree that beginnings are important in learning. the viola was made by a luthier in Toronto, i believe. she's expanded her repertoire to include transpositions and arrangements from other instruments of the same range. there's more out there than there once was. i know what you mean about the clef.... i played viola for a while when i was working on my music degree. never did master the c-clef, though i loved the instrument. how did you play the notes written for the viola's c string on your violin?

Zee said...

... I tried to play some of the notes an octave higher, others I simply left out. It was some kind of Hindemit peace. After that one I was glad to be back in the violin section.

An other question. Do you still practice on a regular basis?
I don't!

gfid said...

zee - so you were not only reading a wierd clef, but sporadically jumping octaves.... bleurgh! yes, i still practice. i play fiddle with an irish band, so i have to keep the repertoire from falling through the cracks. and i have a few students who are progressing nicely, so i have to keep up the more difficult techniques in order to demonstrate them..... and i've taken up the harp fairly recently, so i'm learning to accompany my students on that, and wing a few solos as well. can't play either as much as i'd like, as the office job has given me carpal tunnel syndrome, and my hands get clumsy and stupid if i use them too much.

lindsaylobe said...

That was a great story. No doubt your chuffed to think you have indeed played a pivotal part in planting that initial seed to bear fruit today and reveal what is such a wonderful and remarkably talented delightful young lady.

Best wishes

Jim said...

A truly delightful story gfid, and a beautiful girl with a matching talent. And what a gorgeous viola.

I'd love to hear her play.

Pagan Sphinx said...

I'm so glad that Susan sent me here via her contest for the Beautiful scarf!

What a great story. You have a right to be happy with how this composed and lovely young woman has turned out.

The scarf seems to fit right in with the spirit of your blog. I've really enjoyed coming here.

gfid said...

pagan sphynx - thanks. i'm thrilled with the scarf. and my frosted northern heart is warmed by your praise.

gfid said...

and hi, Jim. thanks for the visit. she's an exceptional young woman. if i had a recording, i'd find a way to post it.....