Miss Sam

dance-teacher

If you are very lucky in life, you get to combine two things that you are passionate about into a long term career that you can do anywhere in the world and can easily fit into an already busy family schedule.  This is my dream.  This is my friend Sam’s reality.

And the kicker is that it is such a beautiful thing that she does.  Sam is a dancer who took her love of dance and married it with a strong desire to teach and voila, she became a dance teacher.  Yup I’m going to admit this up front.  I am incredibly jealous.  If she wasn’t such a lovely person I could maybe hate her for having not one, but two, clear passions in her life.  And a supportive husband and three great kids.  Wow, maybe I should hate her.

Sam started dancing at a very young age in Scotland. She started with ballet then highland dancing then added tap and eventually jazz. She danced right through until she was 17 competing in highland dance and completing her RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) exams in ballet.  When she finished school she was thinking about becoming a teacher but she still found it hard to move away from dance and ended up doing a three year dance program in her home town of Edinburgh.

As we walked in the beautiful fall sunshine, with her sweet little dog Dougal, she told me how she trained in Edinburgh and eventually auditioned in London for a job dancing with the Princess Cruise Lines.  Although she still wanted to become a teacher, this opportunity was not one to turn down.  Being paid for doing what she loved and seeing the world at the same time.  Who wouldn’t?

FYI-none of these pictures are actually of Sam

cruise ship dancers

So this shy girl from Edinburg took a plane from London to LA and started training for work on the cruise ship line.  She worked for them for a number of years, eventually meeting her husband and making life long friends along the way.  Although she loved the work, when an opportunity came up back in Edinburgh for her to get her teaching degree she took it.  She was able to go to school during the winter and continue working on the ship in the summer.

I’m starting to think that this women may have a fairy godmother in her back pocket. And yes I’m still jealous.

For the next ten years she taught primary school, ran her own dance school and had three kids.  That would have continued had her husband’s job not brought her and her family here to Vancouver.  And that’s where we met.

Sam, or Miss Sam as the girls call her, is teaching my daughter ballet this year and I couldn’t be happier. When I asked my daughter how her first class with her was she said “Great, but Miss Sam is pretty strict”. Yes, I thought, that’s perfect.  I know that being a good dancer does not guarantee that you will be a good dance teacher but I sense that her approach will work well with my girl.

“Everybody, every child, learns differently and so the way you teach them needs to be different too”.

I came away thinking how incredibly lucky she was to have been able to take her loves and this great approach to teaching and have something she will be able to do for years.  But then, as it usually does, it came to me. Wow, she is a good teacher,because I just learnt something.  The Best Thing in Life is not to be jealous of somebody else’s life but to learn from them and admire their passion.

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Coincidence or Kismet?

piano

Do you every think that things are just meant to happen when they happen? That the universe has a plan and you just don’t know about it? Today was one of those days for me. At a time when I was lacking motivation, questioning my decisions and wondering if the direction I was going in was leading me the right way, I had an Oprah moment. You know the one. The quintessential “aha” moment. I wasn’t unhappy, I was just unsure of where things were going or if they even needed to go anywhere. Should I soldier on or reevaluate and make a change? I felt I was lacking a focus. Then I had lunch with a very wise and lovely friend that I had been trying to connect with for months. Coincidence?

A classically trained pianist who grew up in, of all places, Prince George, Stephanie and I met when our kids attended the same pre-school. She started playing the piano when she was two and her piano teacher recognized her talent early on. By the time she was fourteen she was flying down to Vancouver once a month for lessons. She was accepted to Juliard, Peabody and Eastman – the creme de la creme of music schools in the US. After choosing and studying at Eastman she was destined for a career as a concert pianist. She, however, had a defining moment when her panic attacks started to get the best of her. She also never felt the pull that many performers feel for an adoring audience or a standing ovation. Many performers continue for the ego boost, but she realized that the direction she was heading was not meant to be. What was meant to be, was to bring the pure joy of music, that she felt, to others. As a teacher.

Her approach to teaching is truly organic. As I ate the delicious spicy Mexican soup she had made us for lunch, I listened to her explaining how learning music is not just about the notes and the technique, but the feeling you get from playing. She has been known to tell a student to “go and watch water”. The point being, to teach the lightness and finesse of playing the notes. To mimic the way the water flows and bubbles. “Some kids get it, some don’t”. She went on to say, that teaching young kids comes with a unique opportunity to mold the way they approach playing and practicing. Most would start with the easy stuff and go on from there. She encourages them to start with the most challenging part. That is a difficult thing for anybody to do at any age.

water

The most important thing she tries to instill in her students is that music should come from a place of happiness – not from a place of ego. You could win a hundred music competitions and still not understand the meaning of the music you have played. Some of the best musicians play for the pure love of it. If they are able to make a living doing it, then it really is just icing on the cake. The need for a gold star or, in my case, verification that somebody is reading my blogs and that I am making a difference, is a huge stumbling block for me. She reminded me that perhaps there was somebody out there reading my blog and thinking “wow, that’s exactly how I’m feeling too”. I could be making somebody think a different way or see a different side to something. Maybe I’m just allowing somebody to steal a few minutes from their day, read a story and enjoy the way it makes them feel.  Like a piece of music.

As usual I went into this situation with one idea and came away with a completely different point if view. I started out being envious of my friend’s passion for music and the way that she had been able to take that and use it to teach children and left feeling like maybe, just maybe, I too had a path to follow. An opportunity to catch up and learn about her music career turned into a life lesson for me. Go figure. I left her house feeling inspired, rejuvenated and happy to have reconnected with such a kind and insightful friend. Even if nobody is reading my blog, I am doing what makes me happy. Perhaps I am not “over achieving” but my family is happy too. I need to live my life for the joy and not for the gold star. The Best Thing in Life is just letting things happen the way the universe wants them to happen and enjoying the kismet.