Music student uses her talent to help others discover theirs

Mon, Nov 26, 2012

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Music student uses her talent to help others discover theirs

Lara Deutsch, BMus’12, is currently working towards a Master’s in Orchestral Flute Studies at McGill’s Schulich School of Music. We caught up with Lara to chat about her lifelong passion for music and volunteering, and her plans for the future.

Lara introduced herself this way:

My name is Lara Deutsch, and I’m 21 years old. I’m from Ottawa, Ontario. I’m a recent graduate from the Bachelor of Music program, specializing in Flute Performance, and I’m a current master’s student.

When did your interest in music emerge?

I started playing the flute when I was six years old and since then I never wanted to do anything else. I’ve thought about it a lot and I really don’t know what else I could do. This is what I love.

When did you start getting serious about music?

Well, I was always totally absorbed in it. I started taking piano lessons at age three, and I have three older brothers who played as well, so I just grew up hearing music all the time. There is no one defining moment when I remember taking things more seriously. I think I always did so.

What led you to choose the Schulich School of Music?

As soon as I started doing my research, it emerged for me as the best school in Canada. Studying in Canada is also remarkably more affordable than studying in the United States, where tuition can be $40,000 per year!

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What are the most difficult and wonderful things about studying music?

The most wonderful thing is doing something I really love doing. I don’t think that’s necessarily true for everyone in music, but it certainly is for me. In my opinion, life is too short to do anything but what you love. I feel very lucky. I enjoy the practical nature of music – it’s a sort of trade, really. I love the physicality of it. I also love how it allows you to experience so many emotions, many of which can be sad, but so many of which are really happy too.

The hard part about studying music is the need to develop really thick skin. It’s an incredibly competitive field. You’ll have to take a lot of rejection. Sometimes you go to 40 auditions before one is successful. You have to be patient and flexible. Some people are willing to drop everything for music, but I’m not.  I think it’s important to maintain a balance in life where you remember that so many things—family, friends, fun—have value, and don’t just give up everything else for one thing.

You’re a recent graduate who is also a current student. Why did you choose to return to McGill for your master’s?

I did a bunch of auditions, and there is a sense of pressure to go to the U. S., to schools like Julliard, to continue your education. The truth is that doing so is just so incredibly expensive.  Tuition alone, but also the living expenses in New York are insane. My goal was to stay in Canada, and again, McGill was for me the very best place to study. I don’t want music and work to be the only things in my life. At McGill, I am at a very strong school, I study with the best, I’m not in crazy debt, and I’m also close to the most important things in life: my family and friends.

You’re a former volunteer for McGill’s Heart of the City Piano Program. How did you come to be involved?

When I was attending high school in Ottawa, I got involved with an organization called Orkidstra Music Program, which is modeled after a Venezuela-based organization, El Sistema. It offers free music education for underprivileged children, and aims to build community through music. Older kids teach younger ones. It keeps kids away from drugs and other negative things. It was so amazing seeing kids who would not have had a chance to study music otherwise learn so much.

It hit close to home for me, as I had a difficult upbringing, so I truly understand the transformative, positive power of music in a child’s life. My mom worked hard to give us the opportunities we had, and to be able to study music, which I am so grateful for. I am super passionate about this cause.

When I came to McGill, the Heart of the City Piano program seemed like a natural extension of what I’d been doing in Ottawa. I loved working with the program, and I joined the executive board as the Fundraising Director.

What has been most rewarding about the experience?

Just seeing the talent and potential of these students – it’s so inspiring. I can’t describe the feeling you get when you help someone discover their talent, and learning to build on it.

What is your ideal career?

Ideally I’d love to be an orchestral musician, but it is just so competitive. There are four full-time orchestras in Canada–that pay enough [for their musicians] to not need other work– and only two to four spots for flautists in each one, meaning there’s a maximum of eight to 16 places in the country, so it’s incredibly difficult to earn a spot, but there are hundreds of smaller orchestras too. I really love chamber music and would love to perform as a trio or quartet, and do tours and recitals, or other freelance gigs.

In terms of teaching, I think my perception of it has been affected by the volunteer work I’ve done. I would have a hard time teaching kids who didn’t want to be there, whose parents were forcing them into music. There’s no magic in that kind of teaching, especially in comparison to teaching children who so badly want to learn but don’t have the chance.  I guess for that reason, I’d love to start my own El Sistema program, so I could teach the kids who really need and want music in their lives.

What advice would you give to McGill parents whose children may be embarking on a career in music?

Support them – that’s basically the main thing. Because I did well academically in high school, so many of my teachers were pushing me to go to medical school, or study neuroscience. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me” why are you wasting your life?” when I decided to study music. It’s crazy.

I mean, musicians don’t become musicians to get great benefit plans. They do it because it’s their passion and it’s their path in life.

Parents and teachers should remember that by studying music, you also learn so many other skills. You learn discipline, the value of hard work, how to work well in groups and collaborate beautifully.  I don’t think our society always recognizes the value, but the value is immense.

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