My morning commute often prompts me to wonder about how our society is shifting in consciousness, especially as it now struggles to make sense of many new realities. In the urban centre where I live, the default setting for life has generally been to ensure that it swirls around in chaos. People and vehicles race left and right. Waves of crowds swell within and on top of each other, awash in noise and disassociation. Patience runs thin. Individuals in crisis are as numerous as those who attempt to ignore them. Human interaction is minimal. Everywhere there is evidence of addiction, denial, and distraction of every variety.
Life viewed through this lens of experience would suggest a shared conviction that we are utterly separate from each other, while even the most cursory glance at current events proves the reality of our interdependence. Does not the denial of our connection also result in a state of disassociation from our own selves? What incalculable suffering results from carrying a deep and collective yearning for connection?
Art, to me, is not entertainment. Art transforms our headspace into one where focus on the individuated self, and the realities of our material existence temporarily recedes. More importantly, we are afforded a wider field of vision in which our inevitable painful experiences and isolations and limitations as human beings can also be viewed as experiences all human beings share. From this perspective, our separation comes into focus as the illusion it is, and our suffering also comes into view as but one part of a larger context of existence that includes shared joy, love, and the hope to feel liberated. Art facilitates a becoming into wholeness, because it helps us realize we are not as alone as we feel. In this context, art becomes nothing less than an arena for human healing.
Music is the art form to which I have dedicated my life’s work, even as I continue to struggle and journey to make sense of its place. I continue to strive to learn how to honour the gift of experiencing the full and complete trust of artists who have asked me to help shape their creative identities.
In channelling my nurturing instincts as a teacher I strive towards a flourishing of authentic evolution in the musicians I work with, validating their own instincts to take possession of personal imagination, curiosity, and intuition. By exploring such innate wisdom concurrently with the acquisition of new knowledge and skills, traction can be brought to the innovation process.
As the student becomes aware of this process they also become aware of their power to establish new models, new contexts, new connections, new approaches, and new cultures in their professional lives. They become aware of the need for confidence, courage, and both emotional and physical stamina to preserve their capacity to flourish. Teachers have an enormous responsibility to communicate these messages and to stand as a compass for their students as they drift to and from centre, inevitably, amidst the chaos of the maturation process. Teachers have an enormous responsibility themselves to also engage their own maturation process: to question and challenge themselves continually, to keep learning, to keep evolving, and to strive for deeper honesty, deeper authenticity.
To be a teacher is to continually accept that I need more knowledge, to help my students become stronger than myself, and to insist they dig out new infrastructures for professional artistry in this century, with their own bare hands. Our students are agents of the consciousness shift that continues to unfold before our eyes; our world needs them, and they know it.
Toronto, May 2020
Photo credits: Helen Tansey (Portrait); Instrumental Society of Calgary (B&W); Drew Marshall Show (Studio)