June 20, 2014
I had the good fortune of bumping into my old student and friend, Fintan Quinn today. In fact, almost the whole family was there - his father, Declan, his mother, June, his sister Aisling - the only one missing was his brother, Tiarnin. It was great to catch up with all of them. They are a fantastic family! I taught all three siblings and all were great to work with, but Fintan is my pride and joy!
I began teaching Fintan about fifteen years ago. He was around six years of age. He was a cool little kid - a tad mischievous, although most-often very quiet, generally easy to teach, very slow and methodical in hios progress.
Fintan started out by studying the Suzuki Method in a group format. It took him a while, but eventually he got to and completed the most difficult piece in Book Two, Minuet in G Major by Bach. This is where his progress in the Suzuki Repertoire kind of stalled. We attempted more pieces from this and the next book, but as I recall, we didn't really complete much.
Fintan wasn't negative or unresponsive to my instruction. He showed up every week, was polite, often humourous when he did talk to me, and played what he knew. It was obvious the Suzuki Repertoire just wasn't stimulating Fintan at all. Fortunately, I had already begun experimenting with teaching (especially disinterested boys at that time), the basics of 12-Bar Blues and a little improvisation. Fintan showed some interest in this, and seemed to enjoy improvising with me at the lesson. He also started formal Theory studies. This he absolutely detested this. In fact, I believe he may hold the record in studio for the longest time spent in Music Rudiments (equivalent to theory kindergarten).
Basically, this is the way Fintan's studies with me continued well into his high school days - willing to improvise, minimal progress in repertoire, absolute disdain for Theory. Through it all, his parents continued to encourage and support him. They were always very positive, never showing discouragement, always very pleased to hear Fintan play.
Time passed and soon Fintan was in Grade Twelve in high school. The first half of the year went by with Fintan maintaining his old study habits. Then, on his first lesson back from Christmas break, a shocker!
I remember this day very well. When I entered my studio, Fintan informed me that he wanted to talk to me. This was very strange, as although always personable, in his teenage years, Fintan rarely had long conversations with me. My immediate thought was that Fintan had finally decided to quit piano.
I sat down and Fintan dropped the bomb on me.
"Zane, I've decided to become a musician. I want to prepare for an audition to The University Of Saskatchewan Music Department this May!"
After I picked myself up off the floor (not really), I explained to Fintan that the U of S was steeped in traditional classical music, something very foreign to him. His mind was made up, however, so we began.
Over the next four an a half months, Fintan and I spent a minimum of four hours a week together. In addition to elevating his level of performance from elementary to advanced, I had to also teach him about three years of Theory as part of his entrance exam. We worked very hard, but I knew in my heart it would be a miracle if he was accepted to the U of S.
Fintan was devastated when they rejected him. They did consent to allow him to take a couple of Music 101 classes. So, the next fall, he came back to me to prepare for another addition to the U of S. Once again, we spent countless hours together - this time there was a difference. Besides working on his classical repertoire, I convinced Fintan to also study the materials for an audition to Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta for jazz. He worked hard for nine long months, but was once again turned away by the U of S. Fintan was so dejected and deflated that he almost gave up on his musical aspirations and was strongly considering not doing the Grant MacEwan audition. I remember a last minute frantic phone call from Fintan's father, asking me to have a talk with his son to encourage him to travel to Edmonton. Fintan finally agreed and the rest is history.
Grant MacEwan was the perfect catalyst to allow Fintan's musical potential to explode. His father brought me a copy of his diploma graduation recital after two years where he not only had to perform as a soloist, but also assemble and arrange for a jazz group. It was phenomenal! Since Fintan spent a year at Humber College in Ontario, and is currently going into his second year in  University of Toronto Jazz performance studies. The University of Saskatchewan's loss is The University of Toronto's gain.
Fintan, "You da Man!!!!!!"
Your dedication to your craft, your love of music, and especially your dogged perseverance amaze me!