The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #165559   Message #3972518
Posted By: keberoxu
20-Jan-19 - 09:20 PM
Thread Name: BS: my cautionary tale
Subject: goodbye, dream, goodbye
As music is part of this tale, it maybe could go upstairs.
But this is very personal and hard to talk about, and
at the same time, it wants to come out and be heard. To break the silence.
So this thread will be opened below the line.

By the time my repressed memories of trauma from very early childhood came up,
my thirtieth birthday had come and gone,
and with those first thirty years,
my formal education -- most of it --
and my first attempts at holding down jobs and getting work.
What changed? On one level, everything.
Not all at once, mark you.
But there has been a bereavement and a grieving from that day to this.

I was always going to attempt to go on to higher education, regardless.
I wanted to get into a college or a university, and to be graduated (that's my maiden great-aunt's fellow English teacher and lifelong roommate talking, pedantic as it sounds) with a formal degree.
I managed to do that, getting two degrees in six years' time.
I still have them. The degrees won't be taken away from me.

My family of origin, in the bosom of which the traumas took place,
had means, ambitions, and an image to uphold.
I saw the last of them years ago, and I imagine they still have those things,
along with a world of other shadowy things which they deny having.

I worked with single-minded dedication at the studies I undertook. My family paid for everything. The only time I earned anything financial,
was when assistantships were available right at the department where I was enrolled.

My field being applied music performance, and my instrument being piano,
there was ready work for a student like me,
accompanying the faculty music lessons taught to other students.
And that was how I had an experience that altered everything
and which, years later, I am just now able to grasp.

At the time, although I never in my life taught a lesson or had a student,
I had some notion that academic credentials in applied music performance
would qualify me to be what a teacher is and to do what one does.
And I paid careful attention, not only to the lessons and coachings
where I was the student paying the tuition,
but also to the lessons and coaching at which someone else was the student
and I was the piano player,
deferring to the teacher on the faculty.

One teacher-student combination, to which weekly lessons I was assigned, has haunted me from that day to this.
I have to be very careful indeed not to say anything libelous
about this teacher. Credentials; ambitions; connections in high places; extremely literate and well-traveled; highly educated ... what could go wrong?         Oh, dear God.

I don't know how the student, one with an undergraduate degree already from another school in another place,
who had been admitted to the post-graduate level,
was to blame for what happened. Impeccable manners, obvious talent, also well-educated, articulate, all the rest of it.
A student, as it happened, of singing.
The instrument was the student's voice.
The student's voice was at the mercy of the teacher.

All three of us showed up and went very formally through the routine
of completing the requirements: the weekly lessons, the rehearsals, all of it. And in this very decorous, decent scenario,
I observed from one side as
the student's singing technique was hammered into jagged shreds.
It is the queerest thing in the world.
When a student so schooled speaks in conversation,
the student's voice sounds as it always has, and no one suspects a thing.
Then the student attempts to sing, and what comes out sounds strained, unmusical, too tense to control, and downright ugly.
If you haven't seen this for yourself, would you believe me?

Well, neither of the other two people are here to defend themselves.
I have to be considerate. Each of them has their own story.
The last I heard of the student in question, that postgraduate degree was never completed. Left the school completely, more or less left music,
and went their way, finding some other way to make a living. I remember writing and leaving phone messages; I was dropped, cut dead.
I don't blame the person anymore.

I completed my own degree, which I was working on at the very same time.
And then came a moment of decision I never anticipated.
My assistantship track took me away from the music studios to an office receptionist post at -- I have to say this carefully -- a division of the same school, part of the arts but different than music. Not my choice, just the way the job vacancies played out at the time. That was an easy decision because I respected and liked the grownups -- faculty and staff -- involved, and they treated me very decently. Some friendlier than others.

Meanwhile, that singing teacher on the faculty? Not quite at the summit of the faculty/academic track in terms of pay and tenure and position. Really wanted to climb the whole way to the top, and was assertive about it: not just in it for the music and the art, but for the academic career and all that it stood for.
I paid this no mind until I was working in that other office at the receptionist desk. In walked one of the friendliest, most accessible senior members of the faculty of that ... arts division.
He approached me directly:
What do you know, Miss, about so-and-so on the music faculty, whose faculty status is going before the board members, of which I am one?
Well, this was no place for the horror story. For any story, honestly.
So I spoke the truth -- my truth.
I summed up an individual who really wanted this to work, who was committed to the school and to representing the school, took seriously the art and the profession, what sort of colleague they were to their faculty peers, and ... and ... based on what I had observed, I would not recommend the individual as a teacher. Period.
Professor Friendly thanked me.

A week or two later, in walked Professor Hardcase, also a board member. He didn't ask for opinions, he pronounced his own, sitting back and staring at the ceiling as he made his pronouncements. And he informed everyone in the office, with his usual arrogance, that he was going to vote against the case before the board, because he had heard from one of his peers that ... and I heard my whole summary repeated verbatim.
I knew then what I had done. And that I could not undo it.

Today, I don't know what has become of the former student.
I left music and academia long ago. I don't teach.
The study I do is not practice and performance,
it is studying literature and repertoire for my own satisfaction.
The singing teacher is still alive, albeit very elderly.
When his petition or whatever it was, was turned down by the board,
he actually packed in working there, although he was welcome to continue with his current status, whether it was adjunct or assistant or what have you. He left the institution, in good standing, and taught the same singing technique and all at other schools in the same area. When he retired, he became a financial benefactor and patron. I don't know whether or not he served on boards himself.

But because I said what I said when I said it,
that teacher was no longer doing what he did to
the singing techniques of music students
at my alma mater.

I will never know how differently I would have chosen,
had I already been getting professional help at the time
or even had already uncovered the concealed, denied trauma history.
I see today that my trauma history had significant consequences
for the things that I chose to do and the company in which I did it.
I used to sit there, while the singing teachers -- any of them -- put their students -- any of them -- through exercises, vocalizes, all that noise-making with the singing voice,
and ask myself silently,
Why do I feel at home with this god-awful carrying-on?
That question has an informed answer, now,
and the details make me uncomfortable to this day, so I will spare myself and you.

And to think that I dreamed of being a teacher.
Who knows what the future will require of me?
I only know that it is time I admitted that the dream is dead.