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Lessons with the Grand Master

I lived in Brattleboro, Vermont for several years studying privately with French flute pedagogue Louis Moyse before I went to University of Toronto for a Bachelor of Music degree.

Lessons with Louis Moyse were unlike any I'd had before or after. Louis' style of teaching was so captivating, I felt like I hung on to his every word. After every lesson, I went to my favourite eatery, the Mole's Eye Cafe, and wrote down everything I could remember about the lesson so that I wouldn't forget anything. It was a good way to solidify what he had taught me.

Lessons began with his wife Janet collecting the lesson fee even before it began. If one was well prepared, lessons could last 2 or 3 hours. Every lesson began with an etude. If my etude wasn't prepared, I wasn't allowed to play a piece of music from the flute repertoire for him. We would work on practice techniques to improve the skills that the etude highlighted. During one lesson I made it past the etude phase. I was playing the Bach e minor sonata for him. He stopped me often, mentioning where to breathe, how the phrase should be turned, etc. At one point, he came up to the music stand, and became quite agitated once he saw my music. Then he went over to one of the many little drawers in the wall of shelves and drawers covering a complete wall of his studio, and pulled out a new pencil, sharpened it, came over to me and pointed it at me, asking, "Do you know what this is?". "Yes, it's a pencil.", I responded. "Do you know how to use one?", he asked. I laughed, and said "Of course!", at which point, he retorted, "Then why do you not use it to mark in your phrasings and breath marks? I see no markings in your part. Come back when you can prove that you know how to use this pencil!" and handed it to me. This was 10 minutes into the lesson, and after I'd paid the expensive lesson fee. I was flabbergasted. He sat down in his wing chair and waved me out with a disgusted look on his face.

Needless to say, I never came to another lesson without having spent a great deal of time considering where breaths should be, how phrases could be turned, and with those markings in my part! When I came for my next lesson, he immediately looked at all music I had brought and gave me an angelic smile, saying "Now you know how to use a pencil!".

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