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Montreal visit

Random wrought-iron work

Erin and I went to Montreal together this past week. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, how it was that she went last fall to “check out the University and get some lessons” and came back saying that she needed to move there now.

Well, not really. I already understand where her cravings for the move come from. I understood the allure of independent living. And I understood the lack of appropriate musical opportunities she’s been dealing with in our hometown for the last three or four years. We made this trip to try to develop some understanding of how the logistics of such a move might work. Still, I was genuinely curious to see the city and its musical opportunities through Erin’s eyes.

Day One in Montreal was the most telling. We walked around in the morning to check out some apartment possibilities. Oh my! Even on a frigid late-March day, with the accumulated trash of an entire winter revealing itself in the remnants of dirty frozen slush on the sidewalks, the heritage and character of this city revealed itself. People live in apartments above restaurants, boutiques and cafés. They live in row houses with astonishing turrets, wrought-iron spiral and straight staircases, colours and stonework and huge high ceilings. And dumps and dives and rickety fire escapes and tiny one-room studios with sloping floors. But character is everywhere!

Row houses near Carré St-Louis

Erin had a lesson scheduled that first afternoon with one of the teachers she had worked with last fall. We walked from our cute little B&B near the university to the teacher’s home on the Plateau. I sat in on the lesson. The working relationship the two of them had was amazing. They clearly like each other a lot, and Erin responded so well, and with such good humour, respect and focus, to everything she was asked to do. She played her new repertoire (Wieniawski Concerto #2 and the Bach g minor Sonata) and there was an excellent mix of repertoire-specific musical polishing, technical development suggestions and instruction about practicing technique. So much to leave with after just an hour! I kept imagining “What if Erin could get this kind of lesson every week? Would she ever go places!” That was when I really understood why Erin came home from her Montreal visit last fall telling me that she needed to move now.

Possibly Erin’s future home?

At the end the teacher told me that Erin is a very special student with incredible promise, and that I needed to make sure that she had a very good teacher for next year, her last pre-university year. I reminded her about our remote location and the unavailability of regular lessons and ensemble experience, and told her about Erin’s hope to live and study in Montreal next year. Erin had alluded to this in her e-mail but hadn’t been very specific about it. Would she consider taking Erin as a private student, outside of her McGill teaching? She said that doesn’t really teach a private studio (she has one private student), and is very busy and doesn’t yet know her schedule for next year, so she wasn’t able to promise, but she said she would very much like to. Very much. By the end it sounded like an almost-for-sure to me.

We also met her husband, a world-renowned violin maker, as she sent us to him for a sound-post adjustment. Erin had spent a lot of time in Calgary over the past several months trying to get some acoustical issues with her violin ironed out, with only partial short-term benefit. A few minutes in this Montreal workshop and everything was perfect! He too was extremely encouraging about Erin’s playing after hearing her try out the adjustments he had made. He asked who she studied with. We explained we were from BC and had just been trying to talk his wife into taking Erin on as a student. He promised to try to twist her arm for us!

We met some friends and friends-of-friends here and there, met with my brother and sister-in-law who drove up from Ottawa for the day to meet us, and Erin had another lesson, this time with the concertmaster of the Montreal Symphony. (He was very positive about her ability, and it seems would be willing to teacher her regularly, but the interpersonal chemistry didn’t feel like it was there the way it was with the other teacher.) We ate bagels, travelled the metro, wandered around a bunch of different streets and neighbourhoods. And we talked to the conductor of the most advanced Montreal youth orchestra, who agreed that given the logistics of travelling from BC to Montreal to play for 20 minutes at the beginning of May, a DVD audition would be sufficient — a wonderful option to have procured.

So … a few leads, a lot of possibilities, and a feeling that we’re moving forward with the right contacts towards the kind of experience Erin has been needing for some time.


email received by Erin this evening:

It was a pleasure to see you again! I have to tell you that my husband was very impressed by you and your playing … he came back home encouraging me to take you as a student (usually he wants me to be less busy); that means that if you decide to join my studio next year , I will make sure to keep a place for you.”




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10 responses to “Montreal visit”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Sounds like a very positive mother daughter trip.
    I hope things work out for Erin for next year.

  2. freelearners Avatar

    I attended a conference in Montreal – my first visit there – when I was about 23 years old. I fell in love with the city as quickly as Erin did, and reading this post brought back many memories.

    I'm so happy for Erin and the bright, wonderful future she has open to her!

  3. denise Avatar

    what a wonderful trip! i love montreal. such a beautiful city, and it sounds like a city full of opportunity and creative development for her. yay!

  4. Lee Avatar

    I always wish I had learned french whenever I visit Montreal..I love that city! Best wishes to your daughter!

  5. Marysienka Avatar

    I've been living in Montreal for almost a year. I love it there. So many places to discover, and the cultural life is amazing 🙂 With all the opportunities this city offers, I have no doubt Erin will find her place!
    Best of luck to her!

  6. paxye Avatar

    Montreal is amazing..

    have recently found your blog and have been loving it… I live just out of Montreal and my husband works downtown… the funny thing though is while reading your blog I realized that you live where I want to be 🙂 I was raised in Nelson and my dream is to return…

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    A move to Montreal is very exciting and the musical opportunities for Erin sound wonderful. Best of luck to her with it, and with her summer with the National Youth Orchestra.

    It would be difficult, but has she considered moving early enough in the fall to be considered a Quebec resident when she does attend university? I think all that's needed is a year of residency in the province prior to the start of the fall term, and tuition rates are a lot lower for residents than for out-of-province students.

  8. Aravinda Avatar

    Congratulations & best wishes! Hope I get to hear Erin play sometime.

  9. | | | mitch | | | Avatar

    Fond memories of Montreal, bagels, Denise Lupien and Denis Cormier… I loves seeing her again in the video.
    All the best to Erin, and I hope the apt hunting goes well!

  10. Melissa / Xander Avatar

    There is an emerging unschooling community in montreal of young adults and adolescents as well as a new generation of young children. Also a strong hope to have a freeschool asap and lobby to change the strong anti-homeschooling sentiment in the province. Idzie Desmarais is a strong leader in the community as well as being a young adult, life-long unschooler. I'd look her up on Facebook and on her blog:
    Good luck! I love montreal (i have lived here all my life) and as long as you ignore the language politics/people the city itself is fabulous!! Especially the student enclave.

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