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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 10, No. 6

How Music Camp Changed my Life

by Kyle Irving-Moroz / March 16, 2005

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When I was eight years old and my parents asked me which instrument I wanted to learn, I remember answering without hesitation: "I want to play the bagpipes." My parents had the unfortunate duty to tell me that FACE, the fine-arts school I attended, didn't offer bagpipe classes (a fact for which, I am sure, our neighbours are still thanking their lucky stars). They asked me if I was interested in any other instrument, but I could not fathom that any instrument could possibly be better than the bagpipes. Fortunately for all of us, that summer my mother and I participated in the Canadian Amateur Musicians/Musiciens Amateurs du Canada (CAMMAC) music camp, where I discovered that there might be another place for me in the musical world.

My time at camp changed my life. The people seemed to be in a perpetually good mood, the teachers were wonderful friends and excellent muscians, and the directors even cared enough about the campers to take a poll one night about which type of water we liked best: the water that had been filtered or the water straight from the lake. (The filtered water won.)

The most important moment for me, however, was the recital of one of my newfound friends on cello. I was mesmerized by the deep, resonant, and warm sound that was not unlike the laugh of a grandfather mischievously handing out cookies right before dinner. From that moment on the other instruments at school didn't stand a chance. The wind intruments gave me a headache, the violin was worse, and as for the viola, well, who played the viola? There was no going back for me: I was hooked on cello.

After several joyful months of playing at school I started taking private lessons on my tiny half-size instrument. With me at the helm it sounded much more like a raspy wind than anything else, but I loved it anyway. When I had finally grown enough musically and physically to move up to a three-quarter size instrument, I enjoyed the sound of the new creature so much that when I ran out of music to play I would just keep playing my own improvisations.

A couple of years later, a woman came up to me in the school hall with a music score and asked if I knew any cellists who could play it. After looking over the part carefully I replied that I was a cellist and would be willing to give it a try. Before I knew it I was in two separate orchestras with so much hard music to practice that I could hardly shake my bow at it all. One was a small chamber ensemble and the other, the FACE Symphony Orchestra, was a full-blown symphony orchestra with 50 musicians. The woman who had stopped me in the hall turned out to be Theodora Stathopoulos, a teacher at the school and the conductor of both orchestras.

These new groups presented challenges and opportunities. While the chamber orchestra repertoire was manageable, the music that the symphony played was quite a bit above my level. At my first rehearsal I remember the music flying by me at speeds I thought I would never be able to reach. It's funny how sometimes things that seem impossible are achievable after all. When someone plops a part down in front of you, at first you can only play a few notes. With a little work, however, it starts to gradually fill in, and with lots and lots of help you can actually play through the whole part.

Where has my initial camp experience led me? Well, I am now finishing my eleventh and last year at FACE, studying cello with Gary Russell, and still enjoying being part of both orchestras. I am planning to devote my life to music, if I can, and would particularly like to explore period performance of early music. Maybe I will take up the viola da gamba? Who knows! What I do know is that I will always cherish my memories of music camp, without which I wouldn't be doing what I am today. If it wasn't for CAMMAC, I would still be trying to learn the bagpipes.

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