Daily Archives: January 16, 2003


In complete contrast to my last post:

It was orchestra last night, and we’ve begun auditioning new conductors. There are two finalists for the position: the temporary conductor who led the orchestra for our last concert (who is one of our violists, and who has guest-conducted with us before); and another prominent West Island musician who has led various choirs, concerts, bands, Savoy productions, etcetera.

The formula? Each auditionee conducts the second movement of the Mendelssohn symphony that we played at the last concert; another movement of the same symphony, which we’ve played through but not worked on; and introduces a new piece of music for the orchestra to sight-read.

Last night, the surprise music our applicant conductor brought in was the overture to Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which just happens to be one of my favourite pieces of music ever.

I was bouncing off walls when I got in the car at the end of the evening. I had played Don Giovanni. And it had sounded pretty darned spectacular for sight-reading and a half-hour of working on it. It’s an energetic overture with plenty of drama, challenging in its precision but not overly discouraging in the technical aspect.

I enjoyed the evening immensely. The conductor had charm, great musical sense, and had us sounding terrific by the end of the evening. I wonder how much of that was an unconscious desire on our part to impress him, though, and more focus being given to a new face, familiarity breeding contempt, and all that. From experience, I know that our temporary conductor is just as talented, but in a different way. The entire orchestra grades these applicants and submits recommendations, and it’s going to be a tough choice.

We’ll see what transpires next week, when our temporary conductor officially auditions.


I woke up this morning with an uncomfortable memory, and I can�t shake it, so I�m going to try �writing it out�.

When I was in grade three, a boy on our bus came up to me and asked me if I wanted a piece of gum. I was surprised and shyly pleased, and went to take one.

Now, this pack of gum was one of those trick rigged things you can order from the back of comic books: it had a spring and a trap set in it to snap your finger when you reached in. The wire caught me on the sensitive skin just below the fingernail, and as a child I had an extremely low pain threshold. As I withdrew my hand, bewildered, hurt, with tears in my eyes and my finger already bright red and stinging, he laughed and laughed and said that he was going to play the same trick on our teacher when we arrived at school.

I sat on the bus and wrestled with my thoughts, cradling my finger to my chest. The hurt was beginning to be seasoned with a bit of anger as well. I wouldn�t wish the pain (physical and emotional) on anyone, especially not a teacher. I loved school; yes, gentle readers, I was a Hermione at school, down to the waving hand to answer questions. I loved all my teachers for opening new doors and presenting vistas of exciting information, and I didn�t want a single one of them betrayed, tricked, hurt as I had been hurt on multiple levels. Morally, I couldn�t stand by with the knowledge that someone might be hurt, and not act to prevent it.

So when we arrived in class, I went up to the teacher and warned her.

I don�t know what happened afterwards, but later that morning while we were working at our desks in calm silence, the boy slammed down his pencil and said, �Big mouth � big mouth � big mouth!�, each louder than before, punctuating his words with a fist on the desk. The students dropped their work. The teacher sat watching me, her arms crossed across her chest, and informed me that it was unjust to ruin other people�s pranks. You didn�t snitch on other kids.

I burst into tears. I hadn�t wanted her to be hurt. I had been protecting her. I remember glancing at my finger, already developing a tiny bruise across my finger, just under the nail. And then, I realised that she was smirking at me. She had planned this. She had directed this little performance. She was enjoying my state of shock, my humiliation, this further betrayal – betrayal by a grown-up.

At the time, all I knew was that I was being punished for doing something that I thought was right for someone I loved. Twenty-three years later, looking back, I am absolutely horrified at her behaviour. She humiliated students frequently, had favourites (of which I was certainly not one), taught unevenly, and made herself feel powerful by regularly manipulating her students against one another, passing on overheard comments and weakening defences by inferring meaning to them. Compared to the other teachers in the school she was young; she must have been about twenty-six at the time. I think we were the first class of her own, for she had been on the supply list the year before. This was behaviour I would have expected from a fellow student, but never, never from a teacher. Almost any other teacher would have thanked me for my concern and the information, and then later pretended to be surprised by the joke when presented with it by the other party, and no one would have been the wiser. Instead, she chose to humiliate.

Now, of course, I understand that she illustrates a type of personality that I have since encountered and dealt with, having learned a hard lesson and developed the beginnings of the requisite scar tissue at the age of eight. It taught me that you can�t automatically trust people in authority, which, along with the humiliation, was the hardest aspect of lesson to grasp. I had been raised to understand that I could go to almost any adult for help at any time, be it a Block Parent, a teacher, or family. This woman shattered that trust. Fortunately, she was in the minority among my teachers. There were some forgettable ones, only one or two bad ones, but overall, I had wonderful professors who encouraged and led by example as I was growing up.

Writing it out does help. I can look at it objectively, now, and see why it hurt so much on so many different levels. The episode is one of those crystal-clear childhood snapshots that you carry with you, one of those incidents that stays with you no matter how much else you forget, no matter how much you try to shake it.

Speaking of forgetting, I know that the boy had forgotten about it a few days later. For the teacher, it was just another little success, knocking a student�s self-esteem down, and she had probably forgotten about it by the end of the day. I have never forgotten it.

But then, I�ve always been too trusting, and I�ve always been hyper-sensitive. Silly me, expecting people to treat each other with care and respect, no matter what their age.