Catching up… originally written Late August, 2014:
Since we visited Oberlin when my youngest son, who we will call “Seth,” was a wee freshman, the gangly teenager (is that redundant?) has completed every homework assignment with the geeky college in mind, hoping only to become an Obie.
One day in June he realized that the acceptance rate is pretty dang narrow and it might be wise to come up with plan B.
So we find ourselves at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Applications are due soon.
A friend and former bandmate with the Blues Alley Youth Orchestra, a hipster we’ll call “Arjun” was eager to give my now-skyscraping kid a tour.
“Watch your head” he said as we dropped into the dungeon-like catacombs below the Kodak theatre where we find Arjun’s practice room, littered with sheets of music, half-empty beverage containers and other detritus familiar to every teenage mom. Arjun shares the chamber with two other students.
I am soon lost as we retreat to the rear mezzanine of the Kodak theatre, where Arjun urges us to try out a velvet blue couch. The building’s centennial is approaching and the décor has been maintained.
We do not get off the couch for an hour.
We learn that Eastman now outranks Juilliard among music schools worldwide. Seth’s face pales in the usher lights.
Arjun recalls his first visit to the place he now calls home, halfway through his classical bass bachelors program.
‘The guys showed me the practice rooms and then said ‘let’s see if we can smoke some cigarettes and set off the fire alarms,” he recalled.
This sounds like the Arjun I know.
But he has changed since then, he clarifies, now he isn’t even willing to show us the dorm room, for fear of getting busted.
I sense a lesson has been learned.
Or his room is a mess.
Soon he reveals a truth.
“My professor,” he states, “totally saved my ass.”
Arjun apparently missed a cue during a rehearsal and did not make it to the third movement of some piece.
They wanted to give me a C, he said, a failing grade at the elite school.
“But my professor was like, ‘I’m the only one who gets to punish him, he’s my student.’”
Arjun waxed on.
Professors, he explained, take ownership of students. But it’s not like it sounds.
A professor recommended a student to the exclusive (100% full tuition paid) Curtis Institute.
The student committed suicide.
“It was like, ‘I gave you my student and you killed him,’” he said.
I have never known Arjun to be serious so I’m surprised to find him at this erudite institution. But I soon see that maybe the application process is not as flawed as I had thought.
If Eastman can see through the goofy grin of our dear friend, Arjun, accepting him despite the grades he doesn’t mention (whatever they are) and the struggle to focus associated with the ADHD he does mention, identifying I am guessing, the passion and ear, maybe my kid will end up where he is supposed to be.
Maybe it really isn’t up to him to decide.