On Saturday we present our Fourth Annual Audience Choice Concert. Laura, founding member and Artistic Director of Chamber Project, shares her choices in this blog post about her path in music.
I did not grow up in a musical household, but my parents wanted me to try a variety of activities, so I did. I took years of dance classes, figure skating lessons, and even played team sports. It was all fun. However, when I began playing the viola in 4th grade, at James Madison Elementary in Colorado Springs, I was hooked. My parents provided me with many opportunities, and music was the obvious choice for me to focus on.
I had an incredible elementary strings teacher, Ms. Linda Johnson. Her class was delightful, learning was never laborious. She gave me extra lesson time and additional music to work on so that I would continue to be challenged. Ms. Johnson kept it light and funny. She named the string program “Strings ‘R Us”. One of our concerts was entitled “An Anesthetic Experience”. If you must know, 50 beginners playing a variety of string instruments is not what most would label as soothing, but our parents appreciated the sarcasm.
I would spend hours practicing my orchestra part, perfecting it passage by passage. I encouraged my younger siblings to play string instruments and then as I was clearly the “expert”, I gave them private lessons. This, of course, did not go well. Tears were shed and lessons ended abruptly. I just wanted them to have as much fun as I did playing music! I choose to continue with music, they, in spite of their “lessons” with me, did not.
I entered The Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) thinking I would love to be a professional chamber musician. I was really into chamber music and had just finished a great summer at The Olympic Music Festival playing string quartets. However, CIM is known for its orchestral training and affiliation with The Cleveland Orchestra, so after my four years there, I was convinced that I wanted a job in the viola section of an orchestra.
I went to graduate school and started taking orchestra auditions. While in grad school, I met this great guy who was also taking orchestra auditions. He won a trombone position in the St. Louis Symphony. We got married, moved to St. Louis, and he started his new job. I started playing as a substitute with the St. Louis Symphony, my desire to play with an orchestra was partially fulfilled.
It was at the end of my first year in St. Louis that two things occurred. I met Dana, Jen, and Adrianne, and we started talking about how much we missed playing chamber music. Chamber Project Saint Louis was in its infancy. I made the choice to re-focus my energy on my first love of chamber music.
That year I also got a job at City Academy teaching elementary students to play the violin. I never thought that I would be in a classroom setting, it wasn’t one of the choices I had originally seen for myself, but I have grown to love it and am now thrilled that this option came my way. The kids are awesome. City Academy gives them opportunities that they would most likely never have and this makes me proud to be a part of this.
Every May, when the 6th grade class leaves their violins at school to leave for middle school, I get nostalgic. I wonder if any of them will ever play a note again, even though they promise me that they will.
I hope that I have planted a seed and that when they grow into brilliant young professionals, that they will love and support the arts. My own life was changed by Ms. Johnson’s dedication to her students and to music, and this inspires me to pass it on.