Music and Friendship

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(Edward, Melissa
, Gary,Christina,Chris, –some of my students with me after a recital)

One of the things I love the most about my teaching is the interaction between my students, especially at group classes. There isn’t a fleck of competition or rivalry; the aura in the room is about support and good wishes for each other’s success.I wish I could say the same thing about the statistics from my own history and those throughout the halls of conservatories.

Some of the deepest friendships can arise out of shared artistic work and visions. Some of the prime examples existed in the cafes in Paris around the turn of the 20th century, and the camaraderie between artists of many genres, and their mutual inspiration. Those are the ideals, and that is how it always should be.:there is plenty of room for each person’s gifts and talents to shine, as each is so unique.

Nothing is as hurtful as when you work closely with someone, and the relationship extends to your personal lives outside of music, and you give as much to the person, out of love and the mission of teaching, and then suddenly for no apparent reason, and with no explanation, that person leaves both your studio and your life.

The emotions flow from shock, to anger, to sadness, to apathy– finally, but a lost friendship leaves a void, and those of us with artistic natures tend to turn the blame inwards and question ourselves.

Recently I suffered such a loss, and the only clue I got was from a third party who quoted my former “student” as saying “Carol tried to be more than a teacher.” Of course we are more than “teachers”, although one of the most beautiful words in the English language is “teacher“, which, in itself, is enough. The word ought to embody more than just the subject at hand, and the hour+ at the piano. With my students, it invariably does extend past these borders. I feel, in this case, that the student lost a lot. The student-friend that receives my love and devotion gets much.

However just weeks after this loss, I received a restorative bounty of love and friendship, professionally and personally, from two wonderful people. First, Teresa Dybvig, a wonderful pianist and teacher, came for several sessions to my studio, to play parts of her program for me–Debussy, Beethoven, and Janacek. Her trust and confidence, and that gesture of sharing her deepest passions in music enriched my life  in large ways.

Then David Dubal, pianist, author, lecturer, radio host, and walking encyclopedia, invited me to play and talk about my new book for his classes at the Juilliard School. The generosity of his words and friendship, and this invitation, reconfirm for me, that there are many of us who know that it is much more rewarding to be generous and to make our colleagues feel good, than to compete or resent. In his introduction before I spoke, he said to his classes, “I hate talking on the telephone, but Carol is someone I could talk to for hours.” If that is true, it is because we share the enthusiasm and joy of hearing young (and old) talent, of trying to help, and we also share the wicked pleasure of telling tales from the myriad world-renowned artists we both have interviewed.

He has written so many fine and fascinating books, and yet, he suggests to an author to bring as many books as she and her husband can carry, to sell to his students. And then the great pitch he makes on another’s behalf! Compare that to the utter silence from so many so-called musician-friends….

Possibly because David knows about the hours of solitude and hard work that go into books; and that books are like babies: they need help to be brought into the world, before we let them go…

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