Before I begin, just a quick update. I am officially done my undergrad now! Woohoo! I got all my official marks back and everything. I will, at some point, do a more detailed post reflecting on that experience. For today, I wanted to do another off-topic rant post. I apologize if this gets to be on the lengthy side, there are a lot of background information and details, but I will try to summarize as best I can.
Basically, fourth year was somewhat challenging for me. If you don’t believe me, read anything posted from September-December 2015. One thing that added to the struggles were some falling outs with various friends. I guess you could say if this was ever going to happen, my last year was the best year for it, but it was still difficult.
First off, I had a circle of friends outside the music faculty that I’d met from living in residence over the years. As important as it is to be making connections with other musicians, it’s nice to be able to get away from them too. I always made an effort to hang out with them with my weird schedule, but it usually worked out. This year was tough though. At the beginning of the year, it seemed like everyone in the group started dating and most of these developed into relationships as the year went on. I wasn’t seeing anyone as I was way too stressed out to take care of myself, let alone be there for another person. As the year progressed, it seemed as if they all started to have their own lives/schedules with their boyfriends and girlfriends. I’m not saying that I’m mad at them for it, it’s just unfortunate that I was the odd one out. To be fair, I kind of had my own life too with my grad school auditions. In second term we hung out maybe once or twice. Whenever I had some free time I would shoot a message to the group, and I’d always get a response like “Oh not tonight, I’m busy”. Once you get too many messages like that, you just stop asking. I was hoping to hang out with them one more time before I left and so I asked when they were done their finals. They said they would get back to me then. I messaged one of them individually to see what was up and she said “Oh sorry, I’m at my boyfriend’s house for the weekend”. I understand relationships are important and take commitment, but a friendship is also a relationship that requires a certain amount of commitment too. You can’t always be blowing off your friends for your boyfriend or girlfriend, especially in this case as she promised that we could get together before I left. To be fair, we hadn’t set a specific date yet, but still. We could have hung out before she left for her boyfriend’s if she knew she was going.
Okay, that one was easy to summarize. The next friend and my issues with her could seriously be a novel (or two, or three). I’ll type as much as I can here before it gets ridiculous and if it still bothers me, I’ll write more about her in a future entry. This is also why I can’t ever share this blog with anyone who goes to my school (well, former school now) as things could get so awkward.
Basically, I met her at the beginning of last school year (September 2014) and she was a super nice person and we became instant best friends. She was very kind, genuine, and did really nice things for me. She said she was interested to visit me in my home town in May (of 2015) and I asked my parents if she could stay with us and they said sure. Things went pretty well until then, I didn’t really have any major issues, until she came to my house.
She’s one of those people that I should have seen the red flags sooner, but I guess I dismissed them. Sometimes you can be blind to things your friend says/does. Even before she got to my house, it was kind of sketchy. She was planning to visit another friend who lives in a nearby town as well. To tell this story a bit easier, let’s give them fake names. My friend is Jane and her friend is Alice. My friend originally told me that Alice’s mom would drop her off at my place on Sunday for whatever day it was. These were plans we made in April. A couple days before, she texted me and said “Oh, I’m going on a day trip to [insert town here] with Alice’s family so I won’t be able to get a ride to you until Tuesday”. I didn’t make a big deal of it, but I was still kind of upset with the miscommunication and I felt like I was getting the short end of the stick here. Alice was getting a nice long visit and I was being cheated by 2 days.
Tuesday comes and I go to pick Jane up and we start hanging out. The first day was great, we had a lot of fun. No complaints. The second day is where I started to get a bit pissed off. We were putting on a recital at a local church. She had played piano for me in my third year recital, so we thought it would be fun to repeat the program in my hometown and then she could do some solo piano stuff to make it a full length recital. I had taken care of posters and putting them up everywhere, but I hadn’t yet done the program. I wanted her help with it. We’re in my room and I open up my laptop to Publisher (It’s always an idiot proof way of making stuff in terms of formatting). She insists on making it on Microsoft Word and grabs the laptop from me. She had a very opinionated way of doing programs I guess. Every time I made a suggestion, she would dismiss it and make it sound like she knew everything. For example, I like putting birth and death years of composers, but she doesn’t. Then she put bios on the back. I had a bio written that was obviously way too long to put on the back of a program, but I was prepared to cut some stuff out. Let’s just say she beat me to it. She was all like “Sometimes you don’t get to include everything you want to include”. Duh, I wasn’t born yesterday. Long story short, I didn’t like how cocky she was being.
Fast forward to the recital. There is more to it, but one point I wanted to make is how hung up she was on the fact that I had a recital for free admission the previous year, before I even met her. We did this recital as admission by donation, but she actually wanted to charge people (like $5 for students/seniors, $10 for adults or something). I did that recital for free as it was my very first public recital. I was doing it as preparation for being a performance major. I didn’t want people to be like “Oh, you think you’re good enough to charge money now”. She decided the best time to “lecture” me about this was at intermission at our recital. It’s like, yeah, maybe I should have charged admission but it’s none of your business!
Another thing that bothered me is how she just felt that she was entitled to go wherever she wanted and have me drive her there. I’ll admit to being a bit of a homebody when I go home, I don’t really go out anywhere. I like the feeling of not having to be anywhere after a long school year of running around everywhere. Let me also point out that I don’t own a car so I used my parent’s car to drive places. She doesn’t drive so I don’t think she understands basic vehicle etiquette, especially given that I was using someone else’s car and there were times where my parents wanted to go somewhere but couldn’t because they didn’t know if we’d be back, etc. There was one point where she needed to meet up with Alice to drop off some music or something and say bye for the summer. We met at a coffee shop, it was very brief but I was a bit annoyed. Alice does live out of town, but when Jane was visiting them, they did come up to the city many times and I was around. All it took was a phone call or a text and I could have met them for coffee/lunch somewhere. I get she was visiting Alice, but since she can use her time visiting me to visit Alice, why couldn’t she have visited me? She had about 2 weeks at Alice’s place and 5 days at mine. I call double standards. Maybe you’re thinking she’s closer to Alice than me, but that’s not that case (this is getting rather long so maybe I’ll have to include that in a different entry).
Here’s the thing that took the cake, and I’ll end this entry off on this. On our last day together before she left, we planned to do a little roadtrip to a nearby town just for fun. On our way out, my parents confronted us about use of the car. This was the turning point for me as I actually sided with my parents. I think it was quite unfair how we just went places and drove all over the city. She seems to have this idea that if you have a car (or a friend with a car) you can just go wherever you want. I think my parents just honestly wanted to get to know her better and do more things with her, which is not unreasonable I guess. They wondered if they could come along with us and I said it would be fine. When we were alone Jane just went ballistic. She was all like “I can’t believe you let your parents come on our road trip. I can’t believe it! It’s going to be really awkward then. We’ll just be sitting in the back seat and making awkward small talk with your parents. It’ll be awkward silence We can’t listen to music and sing along. This has never happened when I was staying with friend’s parents before. It’s all because you’re an only child. Your parents are jealous that you have friends and do things and so they want to join in on everything you do. You need to tell them not to come!”
Who. The. F***. Says. That. Like, I do understand where she’s coming from, but you don’t have to lecture me like that. It’s not my fault. I mean, a simple “Hey, I was kind of hoping that the road trip could be just for the two of us, is that okay with your parents?” would have been fine. I don’t need a psychological analysis of my life. Also it bothered me that she could have the nerve to say that while staying at my parent’s house. Excuse me but my parents let you stay there for free and provided a room and food for you. The fact that they let me have a guest was very generous of them as well, especially given that I do not pay rent to live there. You do not get to go into my house and insult my family and be blatantly disrespectful to my parents. Thanks to her, I may never get to have the privilege of hosting another friend at my parent’s house ever again as it was such a negative experience. I probably took most of it, but I get the feeling there were aspects of it that my parents weren’t too pleased about either.
I promise I’ll end it off soon. Basically, the falling out aspect of it is when I got back to school in September. Over the summer, we were both really busy and didn’t really keep in touch that much. I didn’t want to make a big deal about it. I guess I thought maybe she’d apologize to me in September. I like to see the good in people. I thought wrong. She still brings it up from time to time like “Wasn’t it weird when your parents wanted to come on the road trip”. She really doesn’t realize how much she hurt my feelings and I’ve never really forgiven her for it. It sucks because all school year, I basically held this grudge against her and every little thing she did just bothered me. It was hard this year, I felt like I was being so phony around her and in a way, pretending to be her friend. That’s not like me at all. Normally I never let grudges get to this point. If I have an issue with something a friend said, I tell them in a non-confrontational way or if I sense that I said something that rubbed them the wrong way, I’ll apologize before things get awkward. Not with her. She has such a outgoing, opinionated, and loud personality that I feel intimidated a little bit. There are times where I’ve tried to call her out on something small and she’ll get very defensive and go into her “lecture mode”. I don’t know how I would have brought up bigger issues like the ones mentioned above (and others that I might tell on a later date). Sometimes getting these grudges out in the open can strengthen the friendship, other times it’s the end. I wasn’t necessarily scared about her reaction, I guess I just didn’t want to make a big deal because I was moving away anyway.
As they always say “digging a hole for someone else does not make you appear taller.” I think as musicians we can tend to be very critical of ourselves, and sometimes our criticisms of others can be a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. Yes, music is very competitive and we always want to do our best, but there is a point where criticizing someone else really isn’t going to get us anywhere.
I think almost every music program, with the exception of big name schools like Julliard or Curtis, is guilty of over-admitting students to “fill space”. Universities and conservatories accept way too many music students then there are careers for us, but it’s not their problem. The school makes more money by accepting as many students and offering as many programs as possible. To the administration, you’re merely a paycheque (Yes, I’m Canadian if you haven’t figured that out). They don’t care if you find a career in your area of study after school, they’re just happy you took a degree.
Where am I going with this? Well, before I go on a huge tangent, let me use my school (that I’m graduating from in about a week) as an example. It’s a smaller school in a smaller city. There are some very fine musicians that come from this school that could have easily studied at a school like McGill, U of T, or Glenn Gould, but they chose the small school environment. There are also a lot of people who don’t play at a high standard and only really got accepted to the school because they needed to fill space.
I’ve mentioned this idea of “filling space” twice now and haven’t really explained it. At my school, I believe they accept 70 undergrads each year. That is a maximum number and hypothetically, if there were not enough qualified candidates they wouldn’t accept the full slate of 70 students. However, because university is honestly a money making scam, they will accept the full slate of 70 students. The university would shut down the music program if they only accepted 30 students each year if they could be accepting 70.
What does this mean? Well, a lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise be qualified to study in a university music program will be accepted into the school. Is it a bad thing? Yes and no. It does create extra, unnecessary competition. A lot of these “filler” students will end up being unable to pursue a career in music even though they put in the same hours of work as the “better” students.
That is a very cynical way of looking at it and I choose not to view it that way. I think that just because someone maybe picked up an instrument at a later age or doesn’t play as well as people their age doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be allowed to study music. They have just as much of a right to further their education as anyone in the faculty does. They work hard and practice just like everyone else. Although they may never become a concert pianist or a symphony orchestra player doesn’t mean that a music degree is a waste for them. The skills you learn while learning a musical instrument are transferable to every aspect of life. If you can get through a music degree, you can take on pretty much any career.
Back to the idea of “digging a hole for someone else does not make you appear taller” now. These “filler” students are the target for backlash and rude comments from fellow peers. I’ve listened to many of my close friends put down these students for no reason. I just think there’s no need for it. Does picking apart someone else’s playing really make you feel better? Just because you started your instrument at age 4 and someone else didn’t start until their late teens doesn’t make you a better person than them. They are just as entitled to learn. Maybe they won’t become a concert pianist but ever stop and think that maybe they don’t want to? Maybe they just love playing the piano and wanted to take a music degree before moving on to law school. You can’t judge a book by its cover.
For example, a good friend of mine was picking apart one of the violinists in the faculty. She said hurtful things like “I don’t think she should get selected for that opportunity, she’s not good enough”. She went on about how she can barely get through a piece, how would she do a recital. She was also very disturbed that this violinist was selected as a performance major. Excuse me, but what does her success or lack thereof have to do with you? Maybe she’s still discovering her instrument or getting over some mental issues, you don’t know what she’s dealing with.
Sorry if this entry is somewhat unstructured or going all over the place, but I hope I made the point that I just have no tolerance for putting down other people. I get that in a competitive field like music, we want to see ourselves in the best light possible. We want to succeed, but I have always believed that it is way more efficient to focus on yourself and block out others, rather than being so concerned with what others are doing. It is difficult in a competitive field like music, but necessary if you want to succeed. Trust me. I’ve found when I stopped caring about what other people were doing was when I had the most successes.