I took piano lessons for four years when I was a kid.
I quit when it was obvious I really didn’t have any talent. My little sister, three years younger than me, had already caught up to me after only a year of lessons and I wasn’t going to sit around and let her show me up. It was my loss. Today, my little sister can play the guitar and the piano and sing in public.
While I might not have been very good at the piano, or a few years later the clarinet, I loved to sing. I sang mostly in church choirs. I learned to at least read music, but I still had no aptitude for sight reading and one of my choir directors let it slip that I really didn’t have a good voice. So, that was the end of my singing career.
While my training ended rather abruptly, I have always loved music of all types and through my family, friends at university and the radio I was exposed to pop music, traditional folk music, classical and religious music.
But my biggest musical challenge came 10 years ago when Brian Groos, the organizer of the Pacific Baroque Festival asked me if I would do an interview about the new festival he was introducing to Victoria. I agreed and then quickly starting doing research to figure out exactly what constituted the Baroque period. I was terrified. What if I sounded like an idiot and asked dumb questions? I did the interview and discovered that well-known musicians like Bach, Mozart and Vivaldi were part of the Baroque era, but so were musicians that I had never heard of like Buxtenhude and Albinoni. I not only did that interview with the amazing early music violinist, Marc Destrube, I went to several of those first concerts. I loved the music, even when I was not totally sure what I was hearing.
Despite my constant fears that I would be discovered and exposed as a fraud, I have continued to do interviews with performers at the annual Pacific Baroque Festival. Now, I do pre-concert interviews with guest performers and discuss the featured composers. I have learned a lot in the last decade. I have learned that we are blessed in Victoria. We can hear concerts of outstanding quality, performed by musicians that are at home on some of the best stages around the world, but happen to call BC home. They also invite their talented friends. For the price of a ticket in New York, we can enjoy a whole weekend of concerts. And we don’t need to be afraid of something we don’t know well, music is an experience. It is different for everyone, but you need to put aside your preconceived notions and your fears.
I’m sorry now that I didn’t stick with my music lessons. It would have provided me with more confidence and an earlier appreciation of what I have discovered the past 10 years of being part of the Pacific Baroque Festival. Do yourself a favour take in a concert this year, you won’t be sorry. You might even feel the desire to go back and take up piano again. Go to pacbaroque.com for all the details.
Jo-Ann Roberts is an award-winning, veteran journalist who is host of CBC Radio’s All Points West, 3-6 pm weekday afternoons, 90.5 fm.