Providing the backing accompiament for talented musicians was a decent way to make a living, even if it was depressing at times. It was always the rich kids in the Sydney region that hired me, the wealthy kids whose parents could afford the best quality instruments and the years of lessons. Of course, they were hardworking and often deserved their places in the fancy institutions and universities of the performing arts. It was just hard to see people that I had once been in various school bands with be accepted into these top universities and musical institutions not only thanks to their talent but also incredible wealth.
I knew that I was just as talented as these people, even more so as I had been the 1st position flautist at school ever since I was 11 years old. Words like ' prodigy,' ' god given talent' and 'remarkable' had been tossed around since the first time I picked up the flute, my chosen instrument. Unfortunately, talent meant little in the competitive world of music if you didn't have the funds to get into a music school or course...even full scholarships didn't cover all of life's expenses including lessons, car insurance , rent, utilities...the list went on endlessly.
Thanks to my local reputation as being a talented flautist , I was asked so frequently to provide the backing acconmpiament to various events such as auditions for prestegious institutions, performances and examinations that I established my flautist accompiament business merely 2 months after I had graduated high school...and that was that.
Stifling a yawn as I sat next to my lastest customer in the Australian Institute of Music's waiting room, I fought to keep my eyes open as I poured myself a long black from the complimentary tea and coffee offered to visitors of the famous institution. With juggling my own business, working for my parent's cafe and practicing I had barely any downtime, even a good 5 hours sleep a night was rare...hence the coffee. It was lucky that I preferred black coffee over anything else, I needed the caffine yet dairy could prove disastrous for a woodwind musician...especially within a few hours of a performance.
Next to me, my cousin's latest boyfriend suddenly stiffened, his viola case banging roughly against my legs as he shakily stood up...it must be showtime. The assistant that led us into the audition room smiled forcibly as Andrew next to me rattled on about how much of an honour it was to be offered an audition and how he had been working towards this moment his entire life. As cliche as it was, I knew it to be true. Anyone who wanted to be a professional musician was a fanatic, they spent their lived dedicated to one thing...kind of like Olympians or professional athletes. They only had a brief window of time...yet in that brief window, fame was theirs for the taking.
Clearly this assistant had heard this story probably half a dozen times in the past hour alone, when her dark brown eyes met my own I could practically hear her inner monologue...'just another hard working and bordlerine obsessed musician that may or may not have what it took to make it in their field...their entire career was based upon a 3 minute performance and the whims of the professors who ran this instituion.
As we entered the auditorium, even I was awed. Despite being here hundreds of times since starting my business, I still was left breathless everytime I saw the insides of the famous hall. Deep crimson curtains matching the thick plush carpet bordered the sweeping tawn shaded stage polished to within an inch of it's life. Around us, the soundproof mocha coloured walls shaped specifically for the best acoustics possible to mankind artistically pointed towards the back of the hall where behind the heavily tinted soundbooth sat the decider's of Andrew's musical career.
Miming to my student to take deep breaths, I led us up onto the brilliantly lit stage as we started to set up. Spying the majestically large midnight shaded grand piano just off to the stage's left, I quickly led us in a warm up...looking out into the pure darkness as a disembodied voice echoed around us ' When you are ready.'
Taking my seat behind Andrew I waited for him to lift his bow as we started his performance. To say I was an expert at some classical pieces was an arrogant yet true statement. 99% percent of students chose the same composers...Bach,Vivaldi,Mozart and Beethoven to name a few. Out of these composers 98% of students chose the same melodies...compositions that I now knew off by heart...pieces that were apart of my soul I had performed them so much.
Keeping my face blank, I tried not to wince as Andrew rushed through Vivaldi's Spring, only to realise he was rushing and then suddenly slow down to a pace that could only be described as ' absurdly cautious.' Whilst my job was simply to provide the backing accompiament to ensure that the musician sounded the best they possibly could, in most circumstances I helped them out a little. Despite the flute's soft tone compared to other instruments, once played with assurance and confidence my humble instrument could keep the pace of a piece quite well...almost like a conductor, if it was in the right hands.
For example, in today's performance where a student was messing up the pace of a piece due to stage fright or nerves...I simply adjusted the timing of the backing melody, even ad libbing a little to make it sound like their sudden change in pace or detour away from the normal timing or even notes of the composition was purposeful. As soon as he had played the final note, Andrew practically dropped his thousands of dollars worth of instrument into his case before bolting off the stage, his dry retching as clear as crystal thanks to the hall's faultless acoustics.
The painful silence that followed after he had left caused goosebumps that had nothing to do with the intensely air conditioned atmosphere to erupt across my skin. It was common for students to feel sick or to even vomit after a performance but most of the time they could wait till they had serenly left the audition. Packing up and cleaning both my instrument and his, I was just clicking the final latched on my case when the sound of clicking heels and the swishing of suit pants brought my attention to the front of the stage.
Walking up the gleaming steps to the performing area was a neatly presented man in probably his early 60's. As he met my gaze, I let my emotionless performance facade slip across my face as recognition flodded through me...the Dean of the Australian Institute of Music was walking towards me.
Stopping before me, he gave a kind smile as he put his hands behind his back.
" Official classes start on the 18th of February, we hope to see you there...under a full scholarship of course. This includes board, limitless meals and access to the dining hall and of course a musical education,including lessons with some of the finest musicians this industry has to offer. "
Smiling broadly at me he looked towards the left wing where Andrew had departed from roughly 10 minutes earlier.
" You better go tend to your student but expect a email from us with the full offer within the next couple of days."
As he winked at me, his grey blue eyes twinkling with amusement...it was all I could do but to stare aimlessly as he left the stage and disappeared back into the dark. Not even the shock I felt at the afternoon's events could stop the megawatt smile that broke across my face at that instant.