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Want to know what life is like as an ANAM musician?  In Between the Lines is a blog post written by one of ANAM’s first year students

Something New

And so it began…

Monday 28 February. The 2011 students of the Professional Performance Program at the Australian National Academy of Music descended on the South Melbourne Town Hall to be officially welcomed and to begin Reading Week full of rehearsals, seminars and information overload.

I didn’t sleep so well on Sunday night – nerves got the better of me! What if I really don’t belong there? What if I don’t make any friends? What if I haven’t prepared enough? What if my tram runs late? What if they’ve made a mistake of actually ADMITTING me?!?! So many things could go wrong.

And so much didn’t go wrong!

I walked through the door and the lovely ladies were at the front, ready with a nametag as well as my locker key and electronic tag ready for me. All with a smile. And they already knew my name before I got there. So many people did. And if they didn’t, they made a point of asking and introducing themselves.

So the point of Reading Week was just that – read through stuff and get used to playing with different people. It was exciting to meet so many people also this week – 50 and a bit of us, of whom I only really knew a handful. Some readings were far more successful than others. I feel so privileged to be taught and to work with so many amazing musicians  – teachers and students alike. The piece is complex; it doesn’t sound tonal at all. The rhythms are complex (much subdivision into 3, 5, 7, triplets within triplets. Other things like that) and the time changes into many obscure things so often! However, it is so satisfying to feel parts of it coming together already.

We also had some information sessions and met all the staff and most of the teaching faculty.  The vision of so many things is across a long period of time (for example, working on programming for six months!) and it’s otherwise not clear to us just how hard these people work and how we’re involved in the whole scheme of things. This year centres around us being “Fearless Ambassadors. Australian Voices. Our place.”  There was also a seminar on ‘Effective Practice’. It was amazing to listen to four members of faculty (including the Artistic Director), who are all amazing established and wonderful musicians in their own right in addition to being fantastic teachers, talk about their own experiences about learning how to practice. And let me say, they weren’t always perfect.

One of the things that my teacher said that really struck me was that they, as teachers, were there to teach us, the students, how to teach ourselves. That is practice. It was really comforting to know that these amazing people have had that experience and are realistic about expectations of themselves, and of their students.

I had my first lesson with my new teacher yesterday. I was (am) having a bit of trouble with the Meale, as it is quite complex; the rhythms are all over (my rhythm actually sucks) and the notes are all a bit messy. I admitted that I think I have maybe a 35% hit rate and my teacher said that we could just work on it for half an hour and he could give me ways to think about it and practice it. Even if it would make it a little better to 36%, that would be better. I admitted that I was nervous about having a lesson, because I haven’t really had a piano lesson in two years, but he said that was ok. And he was so kind and gentle; there was nothing scary. He was helpful  and forgiving. We spent about half an hour looking at about three bars. We set the metronome, we clapped, counted out loud, and tried it out multiple times. And it was really good. I was so encouraged and reassured!

And so ends the first week at ANAM. I’ve had to pinch myself several times a day to prove that I’m awake and that it’s all happening. I still can’t quite believe it. I look down at my keys and see my 2011 ANAM keyring (which gets me discounts woohoo!) and the electronic tag. I think that’s when you know you belong – you’re given access to the buildling! I see so many talented people around me and still ask what I’m doing here, but then remember that I’m one of them too. I’ve been struck by how genuine everybody is and their generosity. I’ve been given this amazing opportunity to learn and I’m going to grab it with both hands, embrace if and run.

And I think we’re going to be well-fed with lots of sugary goodness this year!

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