Bennington, VT is where the 81st New England Music Festival took place. Being accepted to perform in this festival was a turning point for me musically.
I started off loving music. I loved to sing, I loved to dance, I loved to listen. I wanted nothing more than to take instrument lessons at school like my big brother and sister had. I started off on french horn in 4th grade. It was a big instrument for me and when I told my teacher it was heavy he just dismissed me with, “Don’t be such a wimp!” I got all F’s in band that year….I didn’t even know that was possible for elementary school.
I tried to quit after that, but my parents wouldn’t let me. I switched to percussion in 5th grade instead. One day, while attempting to play snare drum my teacher scolded me, “Stop playing like such a girl.”
Confused, I replied, “But I am a girl…”
To which he responded, ” You know what I mean.”
A few weeks later he just flat out told me I would never be good enough to play snare drum. Once again, I failed band.
I tried to quit in 6th grade, but parents told me no. In 7th grade I would finally go to middle school and have a new teacher who my brother and sister both loved. In 6th grade I only played bells (glockenspiel). I had taken piano since I was 5 so I already knew how to play keyboard instruments and read music. Everything was easy, I learned nothing, I aced band.
I loved my middle school teacher, but now I had the reputation of being “mallet girl”. I still wasn’t good enough to play snare drum. When we did marching band I had to play crash cymbals (the worst). I was miserable. I wanted to quit. Once again my parents told me, just wait till high school, you’ll have a new teacher then, your brother and sister really like him!
When I got to high school there was already an older student who was known as the mallet player. And from day one in band I was compared to him. Everyone said, “Oh maybe you could be the next _______ some day.” They meant well, I know they did, but I didn’t want to be the next anyone, I wanted to be ME. I didn’t want to be on the lesser end of a comparison. Then my friends told me about New England Music Festival. I saw it as an opportunity. I needed lessons first though, I’d only been playing off my piano skills and really hadn’t developed percussion technique.
I emailed the head of percussion at Hartt for suggestions, and by some stroke of luck he told me had ONE spot available for a new student. He asked me, “Are you planning on becoming a music major?” I had never thought about it, but I was dying for him to teach me so naturally I said, “Yes.” I did not make it the first year I auditioned, I had only taken lessons about a month then, but the next year I succeeded! It was my first affirmation that I COULD play percussion and a step into finding my own shoes instead of filling someone else’s.
I’ve been a music teacher for three years now, and my number one goal is to not make any student feel like they CAN’T.