Simple Gifts

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last post! This fall has absolutely flown by! Things got pretty crazy, as is life for a musician and music teacher around Christmas time, but I am sitting here on this snowy day feeling so grateful for the incredible first term I’ve had in my studio and with my Touchstone students. I really feel so blessed to have such a keen, sweet group of students, both adults and children, and parents who have been so supportive of everything we’ve done together this term.

All of my younger private students got together on Sunday afternoon for a Christmas cookie potluck and shared the solos they’ve been working on all term for their friends and family. Not only did this bring smiles to a lot of faces (and I mean a lot...we set up 40 chairs and easily doubled that by the time everyone arrived! I can’t believe the wonderful support they all got!) but we also took advantage of this opportunity to raise money for the Saint John SPCA! Everyone came together in the holiday spirit and raised $200 which I will be delivering tomorrow. Not bad for a group of only eleven singers! I couldn’t be more proud of their generosity of time and talents and, of course, of the beautiful performances they gave. It’s so rewarding as a teacher to see how far every single one of them have come as singers in the past three months. I hope they’re all as proud of themselves as I am! What’s more, though, is as much fun as the afternoon was for everyone, it’s going beyond the four walls where we shared our music, cookies and fun. Because of the donation we are able to give the SPCA, the afternoon goes to help our furry friends who are without forever families this holiday season. And my students did this all by sharing their time and talents. It didn’t cost them anything and it was fun for them too! It’s so easy to be generous and to give back, so why not?!

And before that, despite the busy season I had a group of my private students get together to entertain the residents at Kingsway Care Centre with some favourite Christmas carols. They all arrived with big smiles, their favourite Christmas outfit and beautiful singing voices to fill that place with joy and music. It was really incredible to watch the students feel what good their talents can do for others, beyond just entertaining for an hour. They really lifted some spirits at what can be a difficult time of year for many. I could tell by watching the students’ expressions how rewarding it was for them, feeling that what they do matters, and it truly does! These visits are particularly meaningful to me after my beloved Poppin spent the last years of his life in a care centre similar to Kingsway. It can be such a depressing place to be for the residents and their families, and I remember how happy Poppin was when I’d play my fiddle for everyone and go visit with him. So many of them aren’t as lucky as he was to have family visit regularly, so it is important to me on a personal level, to continue to share that kind of joy with those who need it.

As a teacher, I really hope I can pass that on to my students, especially at this time of year. Gifts don’t have to be wrapped under the tree. The more meaningful ones are experiences and joy that we can share together. And we have all been blessed with talents - whether musical or otherwise, so why no use them to give back to our community? I know I have been incredibly blessed to have grown up in such a supportive community with a loving family and never wanted for anything. Not everyone can say the same, and I truly believe that if everyone pays it forward and spreads kindness like confetti, as they say, the world would be a much happier, more loving place. And while monetary or physical donations are great, not everyone is in a position to do so, but it doesn’t mean you can’t help others! Giving of time and talents are often more effective and rewarding, and not always easy given how busy everyone is these days.

That’s why in my teaching philosophy, I base it upon Expression, Excellence and Engagement. That latter of which to me means engaging with other people and your community through the power and gift of music. At the end of the day, I don’t care if any of my students go on to professional music careers or high profile performance events. I care that they develop a love of music and an ability to find joy and community in it for themselves and share their gifts with others their whole life through. It’s about engaging with the world through music and taking it beyond the studio walls.

Look at the Christmas with the Cops event, for example. In a group of primarily police officers, paramedics, and other justice department professionals who enjoy music as a hobby, combined with the help of a few of us musicians, we were able to come together, have SO MUCH fun and entertain two sold out houses at the Imperial theatre two weeks ago. With that incredible support of the community we raised $45,000 for the oncology department at the Saint John Regional Hospital, all by using the talents and passions we share. And believe me when I really was fun! It’s one of the highlights of my Christmas season and the months of preparation pay off ten fold! I just hope that my students can see the impact they can make, whether big or small, by giving of themselves, their time, their beautiful voices and any other talent they have. Everyone can make a difference, and I am so proud of my students and friends who have been a part of that with me this season.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season with loved ones, eat lots of yummy food, make beautiful music and take some time to appreciate the blessings we have around us. That’s what the season is all about, afterall! Merry Christmas and all the best for a wonderful, musical 2019!

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