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gentle words for a big moment.

Photo by Danielle Sum

Most of you who know me know that I am a classically trained French Horn player with a Bachelor's Degree in Music Performance, however it is also likely that some of you don't (which is sort of on purpose at this point).

For the last three years I have been amidst a career change, which to be honest has felt more like an identity change. Deciding to step away from my performance career (before it ever really started) is something that introduced a lot of grief into my life, regardless of the fact that it was the best choice I could have made for myself. Becoming a full time counselling therapist and music teacher, as well as creating a new lifestyle that I had never envisioned for myself has been a vast experience full of ups and downs. Doesn't mean it wasn't painful to watch myself walk away from something I put God only knows how many hours into, and my whole sense of self.

Still, despite my not being active within the music community as much and certainly not interacting with as much music industry content as I used to in my social media presence, there is absolutely no way for me to have missed the events, screenshots, stories and horrors that have been circulating recently. It is a relief to see certain names coming to light, people that we all thought were creepy yet somehow got the best students and therefore if you wanted X, you needed to go study with them. It is nauseating and yet also vastly important to know just how deep the rot runs in this industry. It is something I think many of us, especially women, queer folk, and people of colour have always expected, known, heard about or thought was going on. Yet thanks to the folks like Cara Kizer who have earnestly come forward and told of the deepest and worst nightmares that anyone could endure, there is now a foundation for us to stand on and make better sense of what has been going on this whole time.

It really is most important to me to share that thankfully (thankful doesn't even begin to cover it), this has not been my experience. Never once did I have to question if my teacher would send me graphic photos. Never once did anyone touch my body with such violence. Never once was I denied an opportunity in school because of my gender (or perceived gender). I hope that anyone who helped carve a path for me always knows that I am grateful. I have had my share of questionable consensual experiences in my life, I've been afraid of people in positions of power, and I've been told my body was too distracting, but no harm came to me in the industry near the likes of what these dear souls are talking about.

I wanted to write about this from the perspective my new career has lent me though, not because it has been my experience personally, but because I witness the damage done by narcissistic abuse, the strife of PTSD and C-PTSD, and work intimately with all different forms of grief in my practice. Perhaps the gentleness I've found since leaving the industry has some belonging back in that world now that I never thought would fit. I left performance because it was too hard on my body when my mental health would turn on me, and it always turned on me. I am very sensitive, mentally and physically. I made a decision to leave performance so I could help other musicians navigate those feelings and continue on in their performance careers, or feel understood and heard if they ever decided to leave. I then realized that a lot of the music industry was exceptionally hard to crack as a sensitive person asking others to be sensitive as well. I'm still not sure if there is a place for me in that community as a therapist, listener and supporter. But I'd like to believe there is.

So, just in case this little bit of writing reaches someone who was harmed by the events coming to light, here is my soft offering to you.

Take good care of yourself. Shut the apps. Go outside. Scream. Call a friend. Write. Dance. Mourn. See a therapist, one who genuinely understands you and don't settle for less. Each and every one of us is being affected by this wave right now, whether we were victims, whether it triggers us for another reason based on our past, whether we had no part in it at all but studied/worked with them, whether we perpetrated violence before, or maybe just because it is unsettling. You know what your reason is, I don't have to guess it. Whatever you are feeling right now is not just valid, but extremely important to feel. By each and everyone of us getting real and embodying the discomfort (safely!), that is how we are going to create a lasting change. Brushing this under the carpet, hiding from it, acting like it isn't real...these options are not possible. They should never have been possible, and yet for some reason in this particular industry, the wellbeing of its artists has not mattered as much as the satisfaction of the ego of those who've already 'made it'.

Feeling discomfort is so important in this moment. How does the discomfort make you feel? What does that feeling want? What does that feeling believe?

Take your time with it, and act accordingly. Acceptance is always the first part of change. We need to know and feel that something is wrong in order to do it differently.

And for those of you who have experienced your power being trodden over, please know that you are not broken. You were never broken, you were never less than, and this is not your fault. Your existence in this industry is a blessing to the world. Your art, your creativity, your presence, your smile...these are things that the world is lucky to experience. You, the artist, are the flower that blooms when the human race gets creative. Thank you for showing up time and time again. What was perpetrated against you does not have to mean anything about you, and at the same time if patterns of blame, shame and grief exist in your nervous system and soul, know that you deserve all the time and space to allow that to heal.

So let's not let this get swept under. And let's all work on making sure that there is space for softness in the music industry, and specifically right now the classical music industry and brass world. It is time to start looking at the biases and choosing new possibilities. It is time to do what musicians and artists do best: get creative. Let's make this better for everyone, because art is too important to our world right now.

As always, I have space in my practice to see clients, and a sliding scale program for ALL artists. I have always had this program in place since I opened my practice because listen, I understand money is tight as a musician. Again, I'm not sure who this will find if anyone, but if my corner of the music industry feels like a soft place to land, you are and will always be welcome to talk to me.



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