Saturday 7 May 2016

Fiddler on the roof of the world

As reg'lar readers will know, Dau.I and Dau.II never went to school. A few weeks before each one turned 18, they tied up a few belongings in a handkerchief and went out to seek their fortune in this dark world and wide. For the previous 16 years they/we had been part of the Home Ed community in Ireland and their cohort of that group are now making their way through college or are working or are still growing without schooling. There are plenty of 'normal' Home Ed kids and we should and do celebrate the ordinary, but I've encountered some really extra-ordinary youngsters on the journey. One of the families in that community ended up having eight children, growing up into 2 accomplished string quartets who earned enough money gigging and busking to make a modest living.  I think they all spent more time in the car, getting to music lessons, than in bed asleep.

When I was gathering my very expensive education, which has been so useful in pub-quizzes over the last 25 years, 1% of  of the school made up about 4% of the National Youth Orchestra.

If you do a Chi.Sq test on this you find that there was a statistically significant excess of competition-winning musicians working away at parsing Latin within 1km of me sucking my pencil, looking at the ceiling, and not parsing Latin. I haven't spoken to anyone from that school, except The Brother, since I left it in 1972 but I often hear the musicians tootling away on the wireless and a couple of them have a moderately heavy presence on youtube I - II.

But it's not about me!  My musical accomplishments are limited to playing Suo Gân on the tin-whistle and flubbing my taps on the djembe. I want to talk about a young woman who is a musician. I was out visiting her folks the other day and was surprised to hear and see that she was now old enough to drive a car although not quite old enough to vote. I could hear her because she was giving a music lesson in the next room! Like our own Dau.I and Dau.II, she is now about ready to leave home and make her mark on the world. This youngster has many skills, including making commendable cup-cakes and excellent eclairs, but she also has a Miltonian that one talent which is death to hide: she's been playing the violin since very shortly after she was able to stand up.  She clocked up her Gladwellian 10,000 hours of dedicated practice several years ago and is still sawing away perfecting her craft. She has ambition for herself and her craft and was made Leader (principal violinist) of the Irish NYO at the age of 16. Some people are like that: focussed. People who are focussed in one aspect of their lives are unlikely to be drifty in another and she has now decided that the way forward is to enroll in the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien MDW. This venerable Austrian institution has been nurturing musicians since 1817 and has had Jean Sibelius, Claudio Abbado, Herbert von Karajan and Gustav Mahler tread its boards in earlier times.

Problem is that, having never been to school, our heroine has no Leaving Certificate to show to the admissions people at MDW in Vienna. The idea of going to school for a year or two is appalling: sitting in dull classes taught by dullards in order to get a necessary slip of paper. Who'd sign up for that when there are super-light sponge cakes to make??  I'm sure there is a way through this, but I'm six degrees of separation from Ulrike Sych the Rektor at MDW. There is a fall-back option at Leipzig but everyone knows that the cream-cakes in Saxony are nothing compared to Viennese Sachertorte. I will ship a tray of my famous flap-jacks to anyone who knows the cousin of Rektor Sych.

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