Friday, March 1, 2013

The Ugly Truth

This has been a happy week for opera fans with the announcement of the 2013/2014 season of the Metropolitan Opera. I for one was thrilled, and already started making loads of plans to go to New York at least twice this season. And although I am super excited on one hand, I can’t help but feel miserable in the other. You see, this discovering of new friends and operas and fangirling is amazing, but in the real world here for me things are not going so smoothly.

For starters, studying music around here was never easy; I don’t think studying music is easy anywhere, but apart from the run of the mill difficulties, we have to deal with a lot of extra problemas. 
As some of you know I am a music major here in Brasil and I study in a college called FAAM in which I chose to go to because of the stellar teachers it has. We have people teaching there that already played in big time international orchestras and sang in major opera houses in Europe. We also have teachers who are authors of super important books here in Brasil raging from Music education to Opera critics and History books. And quite a few teachers also play in the biggest most important Orchestra in the country, OSESP.
Well, our campus was far from ideal, it was in an old huge house that once was a psychiatric hospital, so, yeah, loads of feels. The underground bathrooms once were the morgues, but we lived with it, whatever it might have been. The wooden floors were giving in, being eaten by time and by the complete lack of interest the University has regarding our course. But that haunted house was home, we made it work, since it was a small campus just for us musicians we could study all day anywhere and stay there until early in the evening playing/singing.

One of our only blackboards with pentagrams being used as a bullet board. One of the studens left a note in chalk that reads "Please use me as a blackboard not as a bullet board. PAULO (our course director) DO SOMETHING!"
But last year the issue of accessibility was raised and our campus didn’t fit the part. So this year we are in a new campus, from my point of view far too new, and I say that because the campus is still under construction. So our classes are joined by hammers and drillers and all the noise they make. The place is absolutely filthy; the University has a 10 people staff to do the cleaning in three 14 floors buildings. Back in other campus we had a similar staff for our comparably smaller space. Some windows are broken, and glasses on a few of them are loose, meaning they can fall on our heads anytime.

one of the many broken windows
The music course has taken the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th floors, all of which are in their own ways under construction. For all the 10 people staff, teachers and the 300 students we have ONE ladies and ONE gents restroom on the 8th floor and that’s it. And they are not gigantic, each has three stalls. And like the rest of the place they are also filthy, some people even got sick after using them.

Back on the other campus, we could get the keys for classrooms where the pianos were so we could study. So we could leave the classroom if we wanted to use the restroom, or have a cup of coffee, or even a sip of water. Now we can’t have any keys, resulting on us having to carry all of our things to the restroom or hiding them somewhere obscure around the classroom. Plus we take the risk of losing the classroom to another student when we leave it since they are all opened. A girl recently left her IPod charging on one of the classrooms and left for a couple of minutes to talk to her teacher. You can only imagine how many IPods she found upon her return. Plus we can only study until 5 in the afternoon, after that all the classrooms are locked even though there are night classes happening on the Campus, that only closes around 11 in the evening. And the music classrooms aren’t used by the night classes.
Another rather humiliating fact is that we are forced to eat our food cold. Yes, you read right, cold lunch. Most of us cannot afford to eat out every day (and when I say us I mean students, staff and teachers), so we cook at home and bring it to college for lunch. Back on the other campus we had a very old heater, but it worked and our food was warm. Sadly this item was not brought into the new campus. There is a cafeteria in the Campus, but the owner has strictly forbidden his staff to heat anyone’s food. So neither staff nor students can eat their food brought from home warm. This isn’t even rather humiliating; it’s utterly and completely humiliating.
Even the basics are lacking. Some teachers have no chalk in their classrooms, yeah, CHALK! So they have to go around the other classrooms asking for some and the other teachers can only give them a bit of it because chalk is apparently extinct on the Campus. Also there are no batteries on the remote controls of the ancient music players; only yesterday one of the teachers bought a pair of batteries so he could teach his class properly.

this is all the chalk one of my teachers had to teach yesterday

All of the equipment is misplaced or broken, for instance, I was having piano lessons the other day and my 70 something year old teacher had to play the piano in a half broken wheeled chair. This week the drums teacher had to once again apologize to his students because he couldn’t give class without drums. Where are the drums? None of the blackboards have the pentagram in them and we did have those sort of blackboards before, but now or brilliant course director found a better use to them, a bullet board. Very insightful I must say, I never thought blackboards with pentagrams would be so much more useful as bullet boards.
this is the "stool" my teacher had to sit on to play

The situation on the old Campus wasn’t always ideal, whenever I see any movie that shows Music Colleges in other countries I can’t help but cry. But we soldiered on, because we love what we do, and even in the most awful of circumstances we want to make music happen. 
But what we are facing now is too much. Of course it doesn’t stop us from studying and making music, even though the key lady has to kick me out of the classrooms everyday at 5pm, I still linger there after finding myself a spot where I can study something that doesn’t require a piano. And I did find a rather cool “balcony” that has an awesome view of the city where I can sing and study, I do have to bring a chair up the stairs everyday in order to sit there, but I really don’t mind, there I can study without being heard or found (meaning I don’t disturb any of the classes taking place in the evening). But when they do find me they are probably going to seal the passage to the balcony, because that’s how things work around here. When you find a way to get your stuff together and do your thing they always stop you telling you you can’t be there or that you can’t do it the way you worked it out.
We students are trying every way we can to change our situation, and I wouldn’t normally post this kind of thing here. But I see that people from so many different places, from all around the world, sometimes read this blog and I think it’s nice for this situation to be known by other musicians and music lovers apart from us.
So that’s basically it. Watching Parsifal tomorrow, YAY!

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