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Part 2: What would you say to your 23-year-old self?

Here's the Part 2 of What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self? 

If you missed Part 1, you can read some great advice from violinist Marie Bérard, cellist Amahl Arulanandam, and bassoonist Fraser Jackson here.


Lawrence Wiliford


In 2000, I was a year out of undergrad (St. Olaf College in Minnesota, USA) with a Bachelorof Music degree in Church Music. I was a member of a very young arts organization called Cantus – a male vocal ensemble that I helped start in my first year – and we were touring widely, recording, etc., but still making no money. I was also working part-time as a middle-school choir teacher in St. Paul, MN as well as being a section leader and soloist at a large downtown Minneapolis church and singing with another professional chamber choir. I really wasn’t sure where my “career” would go. I thought I might pursue being a choir director or continue to sing with Cantus ( for several years… like many of the original King’s Singers….

In addition to all of this, I got engaged to my now wife (Dr. Katherine Larson) around that time.  As I was running around the US with my classical boy-band (no, not like The Tenors), Katie was studying in Oxford, England. The distance was hard and neither one of us really had any clear pictures about how the future would play out.  We spent all of our money on phone calls and plane tickets.   

Looking back to that time, I realize how overwhelming the world seemed. I had significant debt from undergrad, I was engaged to be married – but wasn’t sure when that would happen and I wasn’t sure how music would actually be my career. I was full of dreams and what-ifs, but I also had a lot of fears.

My 23-year-old self wouldn’t believe the things that the 40-year-old self has done. I never thought I would have a career as an international soloist. The idea had never even really crossed my mind. In fact, most of the things that I have done with my life wouldn’t have crossed my mind – including becoming a Canadian!

If I could go back I would tell myself to dream bigger, don’t fear taking risks and believe in myself far more than I did. Sometimes people are bound to the things they know and we need to push ourselves to what we don’t know to find out what we are capable of. That was certainly the case for me.

*Lawrence will be singing at the January 20th Public Pocket Concert in the Annex. Come hear him sing with Emily Rho at the piano. For tickets and more details, click here


Yolanda Bruno


Although 23 is not so many years ago for me, I would still like to share three thoughts with my younger self:

Be kind to yourself. Trust your instincts. Know that the dots will connect eventually but you won't understand just yet how the whole puzzle fits. 

Always show compassion and empathy. Remember that you are very "lucky". Be grateful and show love to those around you (always!) my favourite: "Keep busy and aim to make someone else happy, and you might find you get some as a side effect" -Tim Minchin

In your music, try to remember that it is not important to be "praised" and liked. Remember that you perform to bring happiness into people's lives. You love performing because music inspires and uplifts. That's a special privilege, so use it well!


Emily Rho

Pianist, co-director of Pocket Concerts

Like many people who studied (and are studying) music with dedication and passion, I took the progress I was making at the piano seriously. Every lesson, performance opportunity, audition, and competition felt like a milestone varying in size and degree. Although my eagerness and ambition to do well in all those situations served me well for the most part, the flip side of that meant I was anxious, overly goal oriented, and short-sighted. 10+ years later, I'm just starting to understand that everything takes time. I would tell my 23-year-old self to 'play the long game', and be patient with my progress as an artist. It's neither healthy nor constructive to skip the steps by accelerating beyond your natural pace. After all, we all know the saying, slow and steady wins the race. 


Caitlin Boyle


The first trick for me personally would be to get my 23-year-old self to listen to myself. But if there was a bottle that washed up on the shores of my practice room, and I opened it, and saw that my 37 year old self was writing to me from the future... ooooh spooky stuff…. here is what I would write:

Dear (young) Caitlin,

I come to you from the future and here is a message for you from that future. 

Try to think of life, and experiences in life as a big learning program. Don’t get discouraged by any seemingly negative experience, as there is beauty and truth in every moment in life, especially if you can grow from it

Do not be surprised if your goals in life change, as it is part of the journey we are on. I would say whatever you are doing, do it 110% and then some!

A little kindness in this world goes a long way.If you can get out of your head, and see what’s going on, you can make the world a better place!

Enjoy yourself!

This is my advice to you from where I sit now, and I’ll bet you are dying to know where that is, but I won’t tell you, as I don’t want to create any sort of butterfly ripple effect. 

Yours truly,

(older) Caitlin


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