I often wonder whether human consciousness is capable of evolving amidst the revolving doors of global health emergencies, social and economic upheaval, and Earth’s dramatically changing climate. If anyone had described, even as recently as a few years ago, the future world events of today, I would have been left in disbelief and wondering what more was yet to come.
Dystopia or not, few can deny the existence of a pervasive, tacit consensus reality that we humans are ultimately alone, insignificant, and separate from each other. We are told to distract ourselves from such an uncomfortable thought, and focus instead on the messaging that bombards us daily: fear and compliance are the new virtues to signal and will ensure our survival. Perhaps we comply with directives even if they feel destructive, accept narratives that feel illogical, or subjugate vague feelings of being manipulated.
It is a painful time to be a hopeful artist. Looking at my young music students often leads me to wonder how they could possibly reconcile being so sensitive with such a dissonant, disorienting world that does not see the extent to which it misunderstands and invalidates them. They are elevated for loving art, but not paid to produce it. They are asked to be champions of our discipline, society and planet, to be independent, innovative, creative and expressive in the same breath as they are told, sometimes by their own teachers, not to step out of line. They are told to create and lead, in the same breath as they are told to consume and follow. They are told they are valuable, in the same breath as they are told their value is conditional on how others perceive them. I also wonder how they process the contradiction of seeing our society celebrate those who disrupted history with peace and compassion, while persecuting those trying to do the same today.
When we are taught to express ourselves freely in some ways, but remain silent and compliant in other ways, we struggle to reconcile our strength with our need to feel accepted. In this struggle, we feel powerless. But the reality of our power remains: to make choices to exercise kindness, compassion, respect and forgiveness, including to ourselves. We have the power to be true to our own voices, and recognize the reality of our interdependence. We have the power to acknowledge the futility of greed, envy, and selfishness in a way that awakens those around us. We have the power to see that turning away from the suffering of another sentient being does not erase its existence.
In my experience, art is uniquely able to generate sacred inner spaces of subjective knowing that can be communicated externally. Art transforms our headspace into one where focus on the individuated, separated self and the realities of our material existence temporarily recede. We are afforded a wider field of vision in which the suffering that accompanies human experience can be seen as something we all share. Our separation comes into focus as the illusion it is; our suffering can be seen as but one part of a larger context of existence that includes shared joy, love, and hope. Art facilitates a becoming into wholeness, and is nothing less than the arena for human healing. To me, it is not entertainment.
Music is the art form to which I have dedicated my life’s work, even as I continue my journey to make sense of its place. As a university teacher, I continue to strive to learn how to honour the gift of experiencing the trust of artists who have asked me to walk alongside their journey of discovering who they are. Indeed, teachers have an enormous responsibility to communicate these messages of connection and to stand as a compass for their students as they drift to and from centre amidst the chaos of the maturation process.
I’ve created this website to help summarize the facets of my work and approach. Perhaps you will find a home in these ideas. Perhaps you yearn to discover a creative space in which your process will be seen as more important than your product, or in which you feel freed from the imposition of templates on your creative identity. Perhaps you are seeking relief from oppressive feelings that your value somehow only exists by virtue of comparison to something or someone else. There is another way.
If you would like to reach out, please do. Thanks for visiting.
Toronto, January 2023
Photo: Instrumental Society of Calgary