By: Simon Proulx

One of the views I am looking forward to seeing in the fall.

While it is easy to blanket my first year of university with negatives, I have treated each issue as a learning experience. As previously mentioned, one of the most overwhelming issues I encountered at university was burnout. At the end of the semester, I had a fruitful discussion with my clarinet professor about the impact of burnout during the second semester on my mental health. 

This all came as a surprise to him because it is easy to mask these frustrations during lessons and studio classes over Zoom. He told me that above all, he was there to support me in whatever way he could and urged me to consult him if I experienced burnout in the future. As I complete the final three years of my degree, it is reassuring to have someone to turn to if I find myself in a similar situation as last year. Though still a work in progress, I have been working on prioritizing my mental and physical health so that I can have the tools and routines to maintain it once I return to campus. 

This summer, I opted not to take any classes, and have instead held positions at the 2021 Canadian Census and the Coalition for Music Education in Canada, both of which have provided valuable learning experiences as well as a chance to use my French. Now that the COVID situation has improved, I have been able to regularly visit friends and family.

Unfortunately, due to ongoing issues with the pandemic, next year will still not be a normal university experience. I will be doing half of my degree (and maybe more if the effects of the pandemic bleed into future years) with fewer opportunities than those who went through university before COVID. 

This is not to say that things will not improve. Next year, my ensembles and lessons will all be back to normal and in person. My academic courses will primarily be online in the first semester, but professors are making themselves available in person for office hours and to teach smaller groups of students. 

I have a lot of questions regarding this hybrid model. Will there be spaces available to attend my online classes other than my dorm room? Will things go completely remotely again if cases rise, even though I will be double-vaccinated? How busy will the campus be now that a significant number of students who were learning remotely will be coming back? Will there be support for second-year students transitioning into in-person classes? 

Although these are all worries of mine, I am happy and excited to get back to campus. I am excited to have a lot more rehearsals, to be able to freely play and practice with others, and to take advantage of campus life. Most of all, I am excited to see the friends I made that I have missed so much during this time.

Next year will also look different because of the new experiences I will be able to have. I have accepted the position of Resident Advisor in an upper-year residence building, a position that relieves the burden of trying to find a place to live in Vancouver. Through this job, I look forward to making new friends and taking on more responsibilities after two years of having few leadership opportunities. Because next year will be vastly different, it will definitely feel like starting university all over again. 

As for the future, while it is my intention to complete my degree, I am no longer sure if I would like to make performance a career. There are still many moments of doubt because of the simple lack of performance opportunities I have had, as well as the shaky road to recovery for a sector that was halted due to  strict restrictions. Because the pandemic offered a pause from our normally busy lives, we spent many moments in my classes this past year discussing our purpose in the world as musicians. For some, it is to put a smile on the faces of their audiences. For others, it is to share the joy of music-making with their students. 

I am not sure that I have determined what my musical purpose is yet. My very narrow roadmap to becoming an orchestral musician and teaching at a university has significantly widened with new possibilities this year. I am now considering becoming an ethnomusicologist and researching the folk music of Greece to connect with my Hellenic heritage. After spending a wonderful time at the Coalition for Music Education, I am also considering a role in music advocacy or politics, especially as so many music programs I have participated in have been or are being threatened by reforms. 

Other possibilities include becoming a conductor, a music historian focused on 20th-century French music, a band director, and much more. All of these possibilities would not have presented themselves if my first year of university had been normal. For me, that is the greatest silver lining that has come out of this difficult, but rewarding experience. 

My mom and I after I got my first dose of the COVID vaccine in June. A step towards normalcy!