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I just feel really sad and helpless right now.

My teacher struggles mightily. I've never met someone who works as hard as she does and yet she's had the rug pulled out from under her, twice, through no fault of her own.

And now, at a time in her life when she should be feeling at least moderately secure and comfortable, she can't.

She's far too professional to let these sorts of issues come up when we're in teacher/student mode, and she's typically way too strong of a person to ever let anybody see her in a vulnerable state, but tonight we had occasion to spend time together as the friends we have otherwise become. And tonight she needed a shoulder to cry on.

It pains me to watch her work her fingers to the bone (this will eventually literally be true) and I can see how she just can't seem to get where she wants to be. I'm angry for her for the things that she has to endure that are not her fault, but at the same time, I can't fix it. She takes every bit of work she can. The good thing is that she's got students, and she has her underlying job as a professional accompanist. But the bad thing is that she won't stop until she's squeezed every last bit of value out of her waking hours. If a student wants her to come odd hours, she will accommodate. She won't turn anybody down. In the beginning of every year, she swears she's going to make one day sacrosanct--no lessons, nothing. Just to herself. But what always happens is that she starts scheduling makeups during that day, and then ultimately she'll just start using that day for regular lesson schedule time, until she's fully invaded any personal time she might otherwise have. And, of course, with the general reality that teaching on an hourly rate without your own studio is fundamentally inefficient, she rarely has any one week look like any other and all contain times that were wasted or unused. It's just she never knows ahead of time what times those will be, adding to her sense that she's constantly a slave to her schedule.

I try my hardest not to be a burden--I always offer to move my lesson time, or try to dovetail with another lesson when I know she'll be in the area. I want her to feel as if the benefit of our underlying friendship is that I can be water in her schedule--pour me into the cracks so that way I am convenient. But she does the opposite: she goes out of her way for me every chance she gets.

Anyway, I know I can't fix this. She's not asking me to, and I know I couldn't even if I tried. She's also not the only person I know who has it rough, though I know very few people who are as hardworking as she is. I am there for her, and on the rare occasions that I can actually do something, I do. But I guess I thought I'd vent here because I'm sure there are many of you out there who feel the same way, even if you haven't been thrown any life-altering curveballs. Making a living as a classical musician is not an easy profession, even when it goes according to plan. She did everything right, and circumstances beyond her control prevented her from enjoying the meager security she'd built up in a profession in which it is already so difficult to make work. Leaving her having to bend over backwards for any extra work at a time in her life when she might have been able to take a breath now and again.

And yet I work in a profession in which I come into contact with some fairly astounding wealth, and it is often unappreciated or comes with an unearned sense of entitlement. Not always, but certainly often enough.

I want the power--just for a moment--to reallocate a few things just so the world can come into better balance sometimes.

Wishful thinking. Oh well. I'm sure we'll both feel a little bit better tomorrow--at the very least I hope she does. And if she does, I do. It's just that the cognitive dissonance is sometimes hard to reconcile.

That's all I have to say. All of you struggling artists out there, you have my respect and my appreciation for what you do. I'm thankful my life is filled with wonderful, wonderful music. It's a gift and a privilege.

And no matter how much she struggles, one thing gives me a certain amount of solace: my teacher is thankful for that, too.



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I have a story from my own life. I have a private instructor who I've worked with for three years, and he found himself strapped for cash. I haven't ever heard him ask any special favor or make any special request when it came to his students, but he came to me and asked very reluctantly (almost shamefully, in fact) if I'd be interested in something like 5 2-hour recording sessions for $500 in advance, to be scheduled any time I'd like. He has an excellent artist's piano and great recording equipment.

Right now I make 9$/hour as a music tutor, and I'm not at all ashamed of admitting that I'm relying on the generosity of my parents while recover from disabling illness and try to pursue my passion. My parents, so happy with my progress as a musician, were more than willing to provide this money.

Thanks to this help, this person will avoid having to face closing his music school and ending up like another Mozart. In the end, artists have to help each other out in whatever way we can. Now I will have 10 hours of recordings which will do absolute wonders in teaching me how to control my tone and hone in on where my weaknesses are. There is absolutely no possible substitute for improving your tone by listening to a high quality recording of you playing on a worthy piano. Not to mention, I can start a collection of performances for posterity and begin my own discography.

Just a story from my life to shed a little hope.


Danzas Argentinas, Alberto Ginastera
Piano Sonata Hob. XVI: 34 in E Minor, Franz Joseph Haydn
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TwoSnowflakes :

Your story about your teacher is a poignant and touching one. Your empathy comes through warmly and, I am sure, gives us all a moment to think about those who struggle in the arts, and to be grateful for the beautiful music that we can enjoy. I hope that we don't forget, amateur performers though we may be, those who have helped us to get to this stage where playing and performing bring us such incalculable rewards.

I appreciate so much what you write about your teacher, your concern for her and your genuine feeling for others. I am sorry that RtB used your thread to write about himself.

Regards,


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Thank you for sharing this story,
TwoSnowflakes.

Kind wishes to your teacher
and you.

Dara

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TwoSnowflakes, I'm sure she knew what she was in for when she decided on a career. My teacher knows she'll never be rich in money, but will be rich in things far more important than money. I'm sure your teacher feels the same way.

Good luck to both of you.


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Same here. Thanks for the story. My first US teacher and dear friend who lives in another state has been evicted from her house recently. She had to go through eye surgery at the same time. She also has a grand piano to accommodate. We all chipped in and helped her with what we could. Piano is a wonderful hobby for me but seems to me not easy to make living with. I pray everyday someday and somehow her life gets better.

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TwoSnowflakes:

Thank you for sharing your story. It's gut wrenching and heartwarming at the same time. We are ALL connected after all and the value of teaching a gift as beautiful as music is worth more than mere dollars can convey...although they certainly help. It truly is a shame that the priorities of our culture don't allow many to see this value.


Not on the rug, man...

My musical thingys: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=189614

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Originally Posted by Plowboy
TwoSnowflakes, I'm sure she knew what she was in for when she decided on a career. My teacher knows she'll never be rich in money, but will be rich in things far more important than money. I'm sure your teacher feels the same way.

Good luck to both of you.


She says this a lot. She knows it's not a path to riches and she never expected it to be. But at the same time, she managed to eke out a stable career, amass some savings, and that, unfortunately, was unscrupulously destroyed by somebody else.

To be fair, though, I don't know that she knew any of this when she "chose" this for a career. She became a pianist back in the USSR and this path was basically chosen for her at age 7. Would she choose it had she grown up in the USA? Hard to know, but she does deeply love music.

Her life was upended the first time when she emigrated from the USSR to the USA, like many other Jewish families, artists and non-artists, from that era, and it was from then on that her career was less...obvious. There, she has described to me, it was a responsible career path and one basically assured to you provided you graduated from the system. Not that you'd necessarily be a famous soloist (few were, even out of that system), but the career of classical pianist had more established and secure options. On the wall at her home I noticed not too long ago is a framed article from the local paper from 25 years ago about how this accomplished Ukrainian pianist was living right here among us, and having a quiet life as an accompanist for a small ballet studio. It was on the wall above her upright piano, but it's hidden behind other pictures of her family sitting on top of the piano. Anyway, not much has changed. She still plays for that same studio.

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(She tells a very funny story about how she showed up on the doorstep of the studio soon after emigrating. They were looking for an accompanist and she had done accompanying back in the USSR, but not for ballet. Still, she expected to have to basically audition for the job, and with little English, she brought her sister, who knew slightly more English. She came armed to the teeth with warhorse pieces to play (Rachmaninoff, Rachmaninoff, and more Rachmaninoff), but when she showed up, nobody greeted her or told her when her interview would be. So she sat there, not quite sure what was going on. Some time later, the ballet school director showed up. She, herself, is a famous prima ballerina from Cuba who had defected about 5 years earlier, and started this studio while her identical twin sister, loyal to the Castro regime, had stayed back in Cuba and now runs the national ballet school. Anyway, so the ballet director apparently finally noticed her, and pointed to the piano. Then a class of students filed in and she realized this wasn't quite an audition so much as...she was just going to play for the class. So she did. The director told her to come back tomorrow. So she did. She never left.)

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Didn't mean to diminish the situation of another, I apologize.



Danzas Argentinas, Alberto Ginastera
Piano Sonata Hob. XVI: 34 in E Minor, Franz Joseph Haydn
Nocturne, Op. 15 No. 1 in F Major, Frédéric Chopin
Prelude, Op. 11 No. 4 in E Minor, Alexander Scriabin
Prelude and Fugue in G Major, Well-Tempered Clavier Vol. 2, Johann Sebastian Bach
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Sigh. Even for the extraordinarily talented it has always been a struggle. Beethoven, Mozart, etc. at least all of us starving artists are in good company...


"I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well."

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Ballet class accompanying is probably one of the more lucrative undertakings. There are VERY few good accompanists out there. All the Russians I have heard have been awful. When they play American music, it sounds like something is wrong with the toilet. With few exceptions, the ones I have met are dumb as a post, un-creative, uninspiring, boring, dull and personally tiresome. This occupation gets dissed on these threads time and again, but it's mostly by people who can't do it. You need vast repertoire, total dependability and the ability to think ahead...gotta run...more later...


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