About 20 years ago I ran into a male flute friend of mine who had just finished studying with a majorly famous European teacher (no longer among the living). I don’t know what possessed my friend to make the following confidence, but the shadow it cast has been long and tenuous.
He told me that this teacher openly favored his male students, told him that he tries to help them along more than the women in his studio. Needless to say I was pretty shocked.
I am trying to speculate in a kind way as to why this teacher had these attitudes. (And I’m sure this old-school, Old World guy was not alone in his practices.) Maybe he saw the practicality of his investment in male students: they would be bread-winners, the women would get married, live off their husbands and spend their time and energies having babies.
As a student, I had my share of old-school teachers. And looking back, I think I was definitely a victim of this sort of treatment. Honestly, I don’t think it was all intentional either. I would like to think that nobody treats anybody this way in order to be mean: it’s just programmed behavior of a certain generation and culture. And what 19-year-old female student has the presence of mind to say:”hey, pay attention to me, make your investment in me! In 20 years I will be the bread-winner of my family, supporting my spouse and child on my fluting skills!”
Would they have believed me? Would I have believed me? That’s the trouble, I think. I didn’t believe in myself then. I think young boys/men are more used to believing in themselves.
But here I am, the man of the house (for now at least), relying heavily on my basic skills, since I have little time to actually practice. Thank goodness for the training I do have, and for those who believed in, or at least did their duty by me.
But I have to ask myself, am I completely gender-blind when it comes to my own students:? a gaggle of beautiful, poised, talented young women, and at the most one or two young men. There, you see, even the language I use: gaggle. It’s a collective word, not geared to viewing the individual.
We all need a kick in the butt sometimes.