Dear Grammie (a letter inspired by the Charlottetown Festival Orchestra cuts)

Dear Grammie,

Hope you’re enjoying the Holidays! The celebrations must be incredible where you are.

I know it’s only been a week since I last wrote, but a lot has happened since then. I’m sure you’ve been following all the news over the proposed cuts to the orchestra at the Charlottetown Festival. We’re not sure yet who is going to be cut. I guess it depends on the directions the orchestrator is given. Our worry is that it could affect more than just six of us. Rather than being told to cut six specific instruments, the orchestrator may simply be instructed to create an orchestration for 13, in which case he could just as easily write for a completely different set of instruments. There is talk of using electronic keyboards; I know that would drive you crazy! Anyway, we’re going to try not to let the stress of this news interfere with our enjoyment of the Holidays. The Christmas show must go on!

The whole thing has gotten me thinking, reminiscing about when I first started playing the trombone. I remember practicing in the living room while you were reading. I could always tell when you pretended to keep reading, but weren’t really paying any attention to your book. I especially remember when I played “Pomp and Circumstance” how your eyes would well up with tears. I never did get around to asking what it was about the music that moved you so. Although I couldn’t have explained it then, I realize now that your response was my introduction to the emotional power of music. It’s something that has stuck with me ever since, something I experience every time I perform, or when I listen to music myself.

Just last week I played a concert for some school kids. You wouldn’t believe the cheers after every piece. After it was over they swarmed the stage, asking for our autographs. One boy even wanted me to sign his sneaker! Ha ha, that reminds me of one time when I left through the stage door after an Anne performance, and this sweet little girl asked me for my autograph. Her mom said, “Oh, he’s just a musician.” Can you believe it?! The girl wanted my autograph anyway, but her mom dragged her off in search of bigger fish. It’s such a shame that some people grow up and forget how to feel the magic of music.

Anyway, our kids have certainly been bitten by the music bug. I can’t remember if I already told you that Alexandra started playing violin this year, and is still singing up a storm. Bailey’s been asking for a guitar for Christmas, and he has recently learned to whistle (and does it non-stop!). You should hear him! Alex and I went to hear the Toronto Symphony together. The sound of their 80-piece orchestra sent chills up my spine. Alex got so caught up in the music that I had to tap her arm because I was afraid her physical rapture would disturb some of the other patrons! I love seeing the joy music brings to their lives. They are aware of what’s going on with the Charlottetown Festival, and understand, but we are trying to shield them from the fallout as much as we can. Such sweet kids; I wish they could have known you.

Grammie, every day I remember your words encouraging me to follow my dreams, no matter what obstacles get thrown in my path. Every hurdle I face makes me more determined to live up to those inspirational words.

Here’s hoping you have the best Christmas ever! We miss you so much.


P.S. I don’t know how it works up there, but if you happen to know Norman Campbell, please tell him we’re doing our best to look out for him and his music. He must be going crazy looking down at all this nonsense, but at the same time he must also be overwhelmed by how many people have spoken up in support of protecting the legacy of his music. Please give him my best.

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