the wrong gift, the right choice

Amy had hoped for a French horn, but instead received from her parents a smaller box than expected. She knew that the musical instrument she longed for could not fit such a compressed package. Curious though, she went ahead and opened the gift. To her disappointment, a trumpet lay in front of her. The French horn was too expensive for her parents to afford, and she hence ended up with a cheaper option to honor her musical aspirations. Dissatisfied, Amy ignored her parents’ present for a few days. Only dumb boys play the trumpet, she pondered. However, the child’s disinterest did not last very long; her inquisitiveness won over her resistance. Even though Amy initially treated the dreadful object with caution, she was yet able to explore the fine nuances of sound which this metal tube offered.

What Amy did not predict was that the objectionable present would soon become an extension of her own body. The flowing vibration, passing from her mouth to the instrument, from the instrument to the room, infused her with life more than any other hobby might have done. The choice of musical instrument was not so wrong after all. Amy describes the French horn as a stiff device, associated with classical pieces of music only. Her trumpet, on the other hand, is versatile; it includes a variety of opportunities ranging from jazz to experimental music.

Nowadays Amy is part of the Montreal Orchestra. The little girl who disliked her parents’ gift became a professional who appreciates the soul of stages. Playing at Carnegie Hall, in New York City, brought Amy to her dream venue and her parents sat in the audience to witness the maturing of their daughter’s musical capabilities. This trumpet player does hardly feel the pressure one might usually experience in such a prestigious space, but instead feels a sense of performing with responsibility. The conductor though becomes tense in major concerts, mainly when there is a TV or radio broadcast. Amy, conversely, finds a challenging situation inspiring.

The versatility of the trumpet matches the Canadian’s personality. The flexible approach to life reflects her early days of growing up on a farm located in Saskatchewan, a province of Canada. While her parents cultivated wheat and lentils, they were also musicians. Their passion permeated the entire family. Amy started having parts of her life take place in different settings: the little village with 500 inhabitants, the school town with 14,000, and the city where she used to study music over the weekends. Experiencing these different types of environments influenced her way of being.

Amy not only plays at the orchestra those classical pieces from Bantock and Moller, but she is also passionate about early music, fascinated by Renascence and Baroque, which she teaches at a university. On the other side of the spectrum, Amy’s spirit resonates with the possibilities of experimental, contemporary, and cross-over projects with other composers. If this open-minded musician would rule her own alternative, left-wing orchestra, the first amendment would be to stop playing Star Wars.

The hierarchy and stiffness of the orchestra bothers her soul, which ache for flying away. A divide exists between her political positions and the conservative structure of a traditional large instrumental ensemble. While there are climate protests running in Montreal, which Amy supports, the symphony orchestra engages in an international tour, entertaining the elites of developing countries in South America. Should she even be playing in a country ruled by a far-right politician?

During her childhood, the family acquired not one but two pianos so that all four kids could practice for their musical lessons. The time-management of the keyboard ran tightly, overseen by a driven mother. There was no space for exploring the instrument beyond the fixed rehearsal pieces. The rigidity of her musical routine as a child prompted Amy to allow her seven year old son more freedom to enjoy the newly purchased Yamaha home piano. Her child has now the opportunity to have jazz lessons and is free to jam as he wishes.

Amy’s mother works on pottery at the present time and has become more flexible as, in this art, improvisation is an advantage. The elderly woman has been redefining herself as an individual after the sudden death of her husband. Amy’s father is not in this world any longer, but his legacy of supporting the little girl’s dreams lives on inside of her. Living in Montreal, Amy sometimes feels lonely in social situations, which require French skills beyond her current capabilities. Quebec is like another country, in which she is a bit of an alien. The birth of her child let to an obscure phase in her life. During this period, it was even harder to improve her French. The dark period passed by; now the future holds new promises of self-expression. As Amy has lived most of her life in her head, the time to come reserves music as a carrier of the body through dance. The wrong gift shaped a whole life.