Sunday, June 21, 2009

From Behind the Music Examiner's Desk

Over the past twenty days, I have flown on seven flight legs, rented three different cars, stayed in four different hotels and have traveled approximately 9,000 KM in various form of transportation. I've also listened to nearly one hundred student music exams, mostly in piano, a couple of dozen in voice, and three violin, from grade one through to diploma granting exams.

As an examiner for Conservatory Canada, I am very fortunate to experience this type of work travel opportunity sometimes twice a year, but the spring sessions do tend to be the longest. For the most part my day looks something like this.

7:00 AM Wake up call
8:00 AM Leave the Hotel (check out if needed)
8:20 AM Find the closest Tim Horton's, get breakfast and an extra large double cream
9:00 AM begin examining
12:00 AM Lunch
1:30 PM continue examining
5:00 PM clean up and either continue back to the hotel, or begin the trip to the next destination

This spring session took me to Ottawa Ontario from June 1st until the 6th, Edmonton AB for June 14th, Nanaimo BC for June 15th and 16th, Victoria BC for June 17th, and Vancouver BC for the 18th and 19th.

Ottawa was great - and fantastic opportunity to visit my family. However, I do want to point out a few of the visual highlights the BC portion of my trip. One of the nice things about examining for the "smaller" music examining board in Canada, is the opportunity to see smaller venues, and meet interesting people along the way.

I had the afternoon off after my arrival in Nanaimo, and was able see a bit of the city, and spend some time with family that I don't see very often. We spent the evening together, enjoying a BBQ out on their deck overlooking some of the beautiful Vancouver Island mountain scenery. The next day I was able to spend with an old high school friend, who I also haven't seen in about eleven years. Their three month old baby boy provided much of the entertainment for this visit. After a short examining afternoon, we were able to meet up again and head to the harbour and catch a short ferry ride to Protection Island for dinner.

The next day was a full day examining in Nanaimo. The venue for my Nanaimo exams was a private studio, which was built by the piano teacher, who also has an degree in architecture. The house is situated on a 20 acre lot, where the Nanaimo river runs through the middle of the property. The views from the back of the house through the river were amazing, as seen from the picture on the left here. The host was most gracious, feeding me lunch and offering me a glass of very fine California Red Zinfandel after my sessions were over, which we enjoyed from those two chairs overlooking the river. She mentioned feeling a little secluded and not able to chat with a lot of local musicians, so we had a nice late afternoon talking about music, the environment, and her two beautiful dogs.

I examined her entire piano studio while I was there, and she had quite a few young talented pianists, and is obviously doing some very good work for her community in the piano instruction department. Probably the most prepared lot of students I heard through the entire spring session for me.

After our glass of wine, I headed down the Trans Canada Highway, through Duncan (passing by about twelve local wineries!), up a small mountain pass and into Victoria, where I found my way to my next hotel. Speaking of Vancouver Island hotels, they are the only hotels I've ever stayed that offer complimentary water bottles and oatmeal raisin cookies. Victoria also offered me a private home/music school where I heard a variety of higher level piano exams and three violin exams. Again, the gracious hosts of the school made me a hot lunch and provided very lovely conversation. Examining can be quite lonely, so this type of interaction is always very welcome. I ran a little late at this session, and had to go directly from the house to the airport for my thirteen minute flight, 3,000 feet above the gulf back to Vancouver. Which, if it's a beautiful sunny day as it was - I highly recommend you do some day. Absolutely gorgeous!

After another long day examining in Vancouver, ending with a diploma voice exam, I headed back to the hotel, enjoying some famous Vancouver Sushi. Then I was up early, driving in my Toyota Camry Hybrid (a great car!) back to the airport, and home to Edmonton, where we are now packing up the house getting ready to take possession of our new home in less than two weeks!

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