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:

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


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.