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Problems and performances -- medical and musical,
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

? ' Dear Alice,

Hi, I've emailed you before concerning my religious beliefs and my parents, to which you responded with awesome advice. Now i have yet another problem: my mom keeps taking my cell phone, iPod, etc away for no specific reason (and I even paid for the iPod). Also, when I question her about the logic behind taking my personal possessions, she quickly tells me to stop being disrespectful, and because she said so. PLEASE HELP!

A similar problem also occurred when my dad thought I did drugs, went through my digital camera (which i also paid for myself) and thought I looked high in the pictures and so he took the camera! I feel as if I have no privacy, disrespected, especially when I bought the item, yet it is still taken from me with no good reason. Ok, tired of being mistreated -- how should I fight back in a friendly manner?
(name withheld)

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Alice Dear unknown,
Many thanks for yours: all appreciation gratefully received!

I was also suspected (wrongly) by my parents of doing drugs, due to the pervasive marijuana smell of my every school toilet. (I admit I probably reeked of the stuff!!!)

However, I do appreciate that you need and deserve to be taken seriously -- and I admire you for wanting to fight back in a 'friendly' manner. (If it's any comfort to you, lots of people write to me whose parents wouldn't even bother to go through their photos, because they frankly no longer care.)

So: where does this leave us? I assume that you are unfairly accused of having been 'high' in the photos. Yet your parents' reaction suggests that they are terrified of letting you go. (Swiping a kid's possessions is widely recognized as attempting to bind some part of the kid's -- necessarily disappearing -- self to the parents.)

I suggest that you attempt to reassure your parents. OK, you are leaving them (all kids 'leave' their parents, in one sense) but you don't intend to do so in a disrespectful way. I think you need to tell them that you respect them (even, frankly, if at this particular moment they are driving you crazy -- remember: keep that to yourself) and that you are sorry if your behavior has suggested anything otherwise. Also, that you would be grateful for the opportunity to grow into an adult (which you'll do regardless) with their assistance, and that you're willing, open and able to receive advice as long as it is delivered without condescension.

In short, if you treat them like adults, they have no excuse to behave childishly. You force their hand into behaving towards you as their equal (the desired outcome).

Good luck!

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? ' Dear Alice,

I think that I spotted you at ENO's recent, triumphant, Der Rosenkavalier. First, am I right (it was at quite a distance) and secondly, if it was you, what did you think?

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Alice Dear P R,

Yes, it was me, and I thought it was amazing. The orchestra under Edward Gardner was on very good form (could have done with rather more follow-through from the brass and celli). Janice Watson sang with heartbreaking intensity, trueness of pitch and beauty of tone -- a performance beautifully setting off John Tomlinson's brilliantly conceived Baron Ochs (though his tone did coarsen under pressure) and Sarah Connolly's sensational Octavian. If Sarah Connolly won the most plaudits that was probably because her acting was absolutely as sensational as her singing -- and she swiped the best part, with comic partnerings with John Tomlinson as well as tender moments with Watson and Sarah Tynan (a truly winning Sophie, if rather light-weight).

I loved it. I have it on good authority (the ENO's) that the running time (prob counting breaks) was four hours. I refuse to believe it. I was in paradise for one -- at the most two -- hours. It cost a bomb in the dress circle but was worth every single penny. And what a genius Strauss was, to take so slight (even silly) an idea, and to spin it into purest gold!!!!


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? ' Dear Alice,

By the strangest of coincidences, the very same day that you published the letter from young Emily regarding her dilemma about studying either medicine or music, I was privileged to attend a fabulous symposium titled Music and the Brain at the Cleveland Clinic. Many of the speaker/participants were doctors who are also musicians -- some of professional performing capacity.

One of them, Richard Kogan, is a psychiatrist and a pianist who regularly performs with his Harvard classmates violinist Lynn Chang and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. He's won piano competitions, and gives stunning musical lecture presentations about composers who suffered from mental illnesses. Among these are Chopin, Schumann, Tchaikovsky and Gershwin. He told me that he devotes approximately equal time to each of his careers medicine and music. He obviously practices a lot!!

There were also doctors who specialize in treating musicians for disorders caused by being a musician, most notably elbow and wrist problems. Another very fast growing specialty is music therapy, which has an extremely rigorous study program leading to board certification. One has to be extremely proficient in music and medicine in order to qualify! For more information about this fascinating career, follow the link below. This is the American organization, but I believe every country will have a similar program. I don't know where Emily is located, but if she's in Europe, there will be a similar symposium in Salzburg this summer, when the Cleveland Orchestra is there in residence. It will be on 16 August 2008, and information is available via the 'Music and the Brain Austria' link below.

I think your answer to Emily was exactly right. She should absolutely continue to study both medicine and music. The possibilities for combining these two skills are endless, and her training in one discipline can only enhance her training in the other. Harvard contrived a special study program for Dr Kogan, so that he could continue piano studies while also being enrolled in pre-medicine. Perhaps Emily's university might do the same? For more information about Dr Kogan, here is a charming article, Music: Through College and Life, in Harmony (New York Times, 15 July 2001, link below).

Best regards to you -- and Emily!

Kelly Ferjutz
Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Copyright © 13 June 2008 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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