Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A drop of encouragement

I had a full-circle moment this morning.

I was driving to work after dropping Child off at school, loaded up with 6 packages of cookies to be mailed out, Brownie gear to deliver later today, my cup of coffee. I was thinking of a scene I want to add to my WIP today, a plot twist I might add.

My grown-up life.

And then Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade came on the radio--and I was 17 again, instantly, sitting in the box of a theatre, watching my first symphony performance. And plotting--worrying, really--how in the hell I was going to review it.

In my first semester of college at U.C. Davis I was enrolled in a "Freshman Seminar," a supposedly low-stress way to introduce freshmen to college life and to the faculty. I ended up in a seminar with two other freshmen and D. Kern Holoman, a distinguished professor of music, and the conductor of the UC Davis Symphony.

He scared the piss out of me.

I don't remember what the focus of the seminar was, really, but somehow we were writing art reviews. We watched a movie, went to art exhibits, and had to write reviews as though we were submitting them to a newspaper. It was fascinating for just-dabbling writer me, and eye-opening. Before that I had NO IDEA how much harder it was to watch a movie or view art when you knew at the end you were going to have to summarize and say something intelligent (and entertaining!) about the art for others. I was scribbling notes in the movie theater about themes and characterization, though I couldn't read my notes afterwards. And he was a stickler--imposing, professorial, strict about word count and interpretation and style. Every time I submitted something I was petrified.

But that was nothing to reviewing a symphony performance. I'd been a ballet dancer, so to me the symphony was background, something I moved to. I'd never been to a concert just to listen. And then not only to listen, but to write a review of it, for a CONDUCTOR?


So I can still remember vividly the mix of emotions of my 17-year-old self, sitting there in that box as the lights went down. Anxiety, but also excitement--and the opening of a whole new world.

At the end of the term, Dr. Holoman pulled me aside, and told me I'd shown promise. That I could be a writer, or a journalist, if I wanted to pursue it. Of course I was an Animal Science major at the time, determined to be a comparative psychologist working with dolphins or chimps. I was thrilled, and flattered...but I didn't think it would come to anything.

Still, I think that encouragement put me on the path. When a few years later I started on this crazy writing thing, his words were still there. They still are. I thank him, and all teachers who take the time to nudge students, to show them the possibility of worlds they'd never considered.

I have season tickets to the symphony here in town now, and Child goes with us to every performance. She loves classical music, at 7. She also loves words. But maybe someday a professor will pull her aside and tell her she has promise in biology, or medicine, or painting, and those words will eventually shape her life.

You never know how the circle will round out, in the end.


Travis Erwin said...

Music tends to take me back in time as well. Great post.

Susan Adrian said...

Thanks, Travis!!

Anonymous said...

I still have all the papers from my HS English class that my teacher wrote "you have talent!" on. They gave me the courage to try this too. ~*~

courtney said...

ooh. I adore this entry and I adore you.
SO many sparkles, lady.

Tiffany Schmidt said...

sugar and encouragement? you are just lovely, Ms. Adrian. <3