Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Role Models

The function of role models is often talked about and I can vouch for their importance. As a young Canadian classical musician I really had no role models. After running through a succession of teachers and finding most of them wanting, I had to go to Spain for a year to learn my trade as a classical guitarist. I see now that there really did not exist a niche for me on my return to Canada. Sure, I could find a job teaching at conservatory and university, but trying to hack out a career as a touring performer was pretty much a doomed project. Why? Well, who were the role models? Who, in fact did have a successful career as a classical guitarist in Canada in the late 70s and 80s? The answer is: Liona Boyd. Let's have a listen:


What I was doing could only compete with that if the audience were open to it, which, based on my experience, they were not. Now, I have to confess that I wasn't open to a few things myself! I didn't know how to develop my career, I didn't play programs that were easily accessible, I didn't play the political game and so on. In other words, I played musically challenging concerts and expected the audience to get into it. Well, mostly they weren't interested! I could probably have found more willing audiences in Europe, or perhaps even the US, but my self-deprecating Canadian character wasn't so ready to take that step. The one time I toured Europe, audiences were wildly receptive and when I did my international debut at Wigmore Hall in London, critic John Duarte, who had heard everyone, was very positive. But moving to Europe or the US always felt like a bridge too far and audiences in Canada were just not so interested. Hey, they had the fabulous Liona!

This is what I had to offer:

video

So one of the obvious functions of role models is to show you what is possible in your environment.

2 comments:

Marc Puckett said...

Lovely Albeniz! Alas, had never heard of Liona Boyd (or Super Dave Osbourne, either, tsk)-- but, apart from anything else, she was quite clever to obtain the url www.classicalguitar.com. :-)

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks so much, Marc. I posted that Liona Boyd link to show, first of all, what kinds of things you had to do to get known in Canada in the 80s (most of which I was unwilling to do) and second, to show what kind of musicianship a successful Canadian guitarist displayed.