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What Made You Think of Forming This Group? And How did You Start?

Ever since my second year of learning, I have always wanted to connect with other adult music learners and I had tried a number of different ways. I had gone to masterclasses, piano camps and performing arts festivals. However, I failed to find an existing group that gives me exactly what I am looking for. I found out about the Calgary Classical Piano Meetups in the summer of 2017 and to which I joined in August and am now a member. I have met many great pianists and musicians in this group and they have been very welcoming but I still thought something was missing. After an incident that occurred on December 20th, 2017, I realized what that something was.

This was the precipitating incident: I was having a casual conversation with a parent of one of my daughter's grade 6 classmates after the school Christmas concert about my music learning and I was really shocked by his reply. He told me that people do not start learning piano when they are "old" - they do it when they are young and that he thought it was foolish of me to think that I could do it. His response was so rude that I was really taken aback. At that time, I was in my 4th year of learning piano so it didn't faze me in terms of making me feel bad about what I was doing but if I had been a new learner, it definitely would have really disturbed me. This is not the first time that I have encountered negativity like this person’s attitude towards my simple goal of learning piano. I have been pondering why this is so and I have come up with only one reason. Most people who have pursued music as a vocation, have learned it while they were young so therefore that is the only experience they know. Because it is their experience, the theory that music should be learned while young, becomes a ‘truth’. So much so, that an adult who wishes to learn, has a hard time believing or getting emotional support to overcome this “truth”.

That December 20th conversation in 2017 actually got me thinking and I suddenly realized that if I could not find the type of group that I was looking for, then I would need to form it. I thought to myself that I can't be unique in wanting to connect with other adult learners so there must be other people that want the same thing. And the most important thing that I can do for others who are struggling or who are just starting, is to give my emotional support. As I stated, I was in my 4th year of studies in 2017 but there was one point during my third year of studies where I was struggling so much that I thought of quitting. I didn't quit, of course, but I can totally empathize. I wanted this group to be the place where we, as adults, can come and give and receive support and celebrate our achievements. I want it to be the place where we can talk frankly about the challenges that we face as mature music students. And it was in this way that the idea of this group came to form in my mind. I have been told while recounting how the idea of the group came about, that this person with the hurtful criticisms is a "disruptor" and it was because of him that I was able to identify what exactly I needed to do. So I guess that I need to thank this person because it was because of him that I realized that I had to take the 'bull by the horns" and create this group.

I did a lot of writing about the premise and the mandates of this group during the latter part of December 2017 and January 2018. In February, I started designing the website on Wix and in less a few days, I had uploaded all my content that I had spent the previous 6 weeks writing. The last piece of the puzzle was that I had to think of a venue where we could hold the monthly group meeting. I reached out to Brent Hay who was the senior piano consultant at Steinway Piano Gallery in Calgary at the time. I had met Brent at a lot of the Chinook School of Music (CSM) adult recitals as he was usually hosting these evening wine and cheese recitals. In the beginning and at the point at which I approached him, I had been learning piano for 3.5 years at CSM which, by the way, is a great music school. I played piano at these recitals and all of them had taken place at the Steinway Recital Hall. Brent had always made me feel comfortable as an adult learner with his encouragement and support. I decided that I wanted to pitch him the idea of this group and see if he would support us by allowing us to hold our meetings at their recital hall.

I remembered that I picked a cold and snowy day in February and phoned ahead to make sure that Brent was there. And I remembered telling him on the phone, that I was coming to Steinway to talk to him about an idea. He replied that I was brave to come in the snowstorm as there had been no visitors to the showroom that day, because of the snowstorm. That was exactly what I wanted - his undivided attention! Yes, even though I was nervous, I was able to pitch my idea of our group to Brent in a convincing way and Brent was in full support of it. He went above and beyond by hosting us in the evenings after the showroom was closed when our group could not get in due to the busy months of May and June that year. I have to thank Brent so much for his support in that first year.

But in 2020 March, all of our in-person group meetings came to a halt due to Covid19 and that was when we pivoted and switched to Zoom and we also increased the frequency to bi-weekly. There are a core group of about 6 members that have met regularly for over 17 months now. These Zoom meetings, which have enabled us to talk about all things music and also perform for each other, have been a life saver for us all. We have been able to see the great progress each of us have made and we have become a very close-knit group because of the frequency of our meetings. I am so happy to be a part of this supportive group of musicians. Our first meeting was on March 11, 2018 at the Steinway Piano Gallery recital hall and four of us attended the first meeting. And now it is 3.5 years later and we now have 16 members - 12 pianists, 2 violinists, 1 classical guitarist and a soloist. I am so excited to see the growth of our group!

written: Sept 2021

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