I have followed an unusual path in my musical training. There was no prodigious start or discovery of talent at a young age – in fact, I resisted any attempt to be educated musically. One thing I remember is trying out one of the very early musical-notation programs for my Commodore 64, drawing pictures with musical notes and listening to the resulting sounds. Little did I realize that work would have qualified for an arts council grant. It was not until I was a teenager when my parents brought home a synthesizer (Ensoniq ESQ-1) that I discovered the value of having some musical training. However, soon after starting piano lessons, I discarded the synthesizer and schmaltzy pop songs, and became fascinated with classical music.
My introduction to classical music came from two sources. My parents would listen to Choral Concert on CBC radio every Sunday morning – a program I continued listening to until the retirement of Howard Dyck. The other source was the musical soundtracks to Looney Tunes cartoons. Alas, do the youth of today have pictures of Bugs and Elmer dancing in their heads when they hear Rossini’s Barber of Seville or listen to Wagner’s Tannhauser?
Throughout high school, I diligently worked on my piano studies and became interested in composition under the encouraging eye of James Carswell. Despite progressing rapidly, by the time of graduation I was still of modest ability, leading me to choose a scientific path for my university studies. At the University of Toronto I completed a degree in physics – my other lifelong interest – and then set off to teacher’s college to become a high school science teacher. It was there that I met Ronald Royer.
Ron has nurtured many young musical talents under his guidance at the University of Toronto Schools. From him I took a few composition, counterpoint and orchestration lessons, which marked the end of my “formal” musical education.