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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On oboe-playing daughters-in-law and tuba careers,
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Just a couple of things to add to your reponse to Marlene about careers in tuba. My parents were professional musicians and so they encouraged my musical interests but never to the point of turning an avocation into a vocation. They knew what kind of talent and drive a professional career required and they knew I didn't have them. Thus, while I have studied tuba at the Eastman School of Music and with the principal of the Pittsburg Symphony, these were secondary to my vocational degrees in mathematics.

In the United States it seems that the vast majority of tuba performance majors do not end up strictly as performers. They teach (band, or brass in general) or double on string or electric bass or move to a non-performing field. The man who was booking all of the talent for Disney World had been a tuba major 20 years ago. So if Marlene's son thinks he is heading off on a path that will allow him to play tuba as his primary and only source of income then he had better be darn good or he will be disappointed. However, if it is a skill he would like to nurture then there is probably no harm but he may want to consider emigrating to the United States :-)

Dear anonymous-if-clearly-gifted-tuba-playing-mathmatician,

Thanks for this, which I think very useful. Though I have to say I think the odds must be against some UK tuba player being accepted as desperately needed talent for the purposes of immigration ...


Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

I have a problem with my daughter-in-law, who plays the oboe. I don't think it's a very common problem, because most of my friends moan that they don't see their grandchildren enough, but this girl (lovely girl) has given up playing while bringing up her two (adorable) children toddlers, and seems to have nothing to do but come and park herself at my house.

I lost my husband quite a few years ago -- it was awful, but I've gotten over it -- but I have a very full life, with part-time work, gardening, golf etc and I need (most of) these visits like a hole in the head. My son takes offense if I mention that this girl seems to have nothing to do but visit me, but this really seems to be the case. What do you suggest I do?


Dear Mother-in-law-for-life,

I do think that this is a pretty unusual problem, as the tolerance level of most grandparents for endless visits from the offspring seems pretty unlimited, but I respect you for having made such a full life for yourself after the death of your husband; while the level of visits from your particular tots begins to sound like persecution.

As your son seems to be unhelpful (he probably thinks that you love nothing better than cleaning up after toddlers all day) and I assume you lack the nerve/rudeness simply to tell your daughter-in-law that she's bugging you, I suggest you try craftiness instead. You want to do two things at once: to make your home seem less attractive, and to make other places seem more attractive. Can I propose that you sign up this daughter-in-law for an art class or badminton classes or a book club for mums with young kids in order to extend her social range? (It's she, after all, not you, who needs to get a life!!!) If this fails to detach her from your comfy home, more drastic measures may be required. My advice would be to hide all food except for bread and butter, to 'run out' of all tea and coffee, to lay off the deoderant and to start behaving a bit strangely, repeating yourself as often as you can bear it, and saying 'What?' a lot.

Copyright © 7 April 2006 Alice McVeigh, USA

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