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Part 1:What would you say to your 23-year-old self?

Do you ever wonder what you would do differently if you could go back in time?  As we wrap up 2017, we asked a few people from the 80+ musicians who have performed with Pocket Concerts:

"What would you say to your 23-year-old self?"

It's been inspiring getting the responses and reading them, and we are happy to share them with you all. This one is Part 1 of 3, so keep reading!


Marie Bérard

Concertmaster, Canadian Opera Company Orchestra

"There is a universal truth which the young are all too

infrequently surprised into acknowledging,

and then with a sense of having been violently brought up short,

which is that, as they are now, so too were the old, once.”

- John Banville, Mrs. Osmond: A novel

This quote means a lot to me as it describes so well what I would say to my 23 year-old self. I truly believe in the importance of learning from the people and colleagues older than we are, and remembering they were once just like us is crucial to the growth of a person and musician.

I would also say to that young person: Play every concert to the very best of your ability and involvement, you just don’t know who will be where and when!

- Marie Bérard


Amahl Arulanandam

Freelance cellist

At 23 I feel like I was in somewhat of an interesting place in my development.  I had quit the cello in my teens, and come back to it in my early 20s, and as such, at 23 I found myself in my second and third years of my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto.  I was 3-5 years older than almost everyone else in my year, and to me at the time that felt like a big deal.  Our studio was fairly close, but right from the beginning I felt like I was playing catch-up to an extreme degree, so I spent an exorbitant amount of time buried in the basement of the Edward Johnson Building.  

I wouldn't change a lot about my time going through U of T, but there are a few things I'd do differently at that point.  Mostly, I'd tell myself to take care of my body and mindway more than I did.  Lots of early mornings and late nights of practicing followed by alcohol-fuelled good times resulted in some strain injuries that still nag me and flare up to this day.  The practice room will always be there - your health will not.  Take care of yourself so you can ensure you'll enjoy the fruits of your hard work for a long, long time.

- Amahl Arulanandam


Fraser Jackson

Bassoonist at Toronto Symphony Orchestra

When I was in public school, there was a kid in my class named John Sheriff who could draw anything. He could look at a stapler sitting on the desk and draw a perfect likeness of it. Not me. My drawing would look like a stick-figure version drawn by a myopic nine-year-old. The fact that this was the truth didn’t matter: I was sure that the skill of drawing was just something you were born with. Years later, when I was in my 30’s,  I astonished myself by learning to draw and I was actually ok at it! I wish I could have told my 23-year-old self that this applied to music as well. Even though I went to good music schools and was ultimately successful, I was convinced that the bassoonists around me who were playing a million notes a minute and making great reeds all the time were just more talented than I was and that they were the ones who were destined to have big careers.

I wish I could go back and convince my 23-year-old self that I had everything I needed to succeed like those other players— everything except the conviction that I was in the running, and the wherewithal to practice slowly. In those days, I guess teachers were aiming to keep students hungry and humble by being sparing with praise but I could have used a different approach. And now I’m a big fan of that adage: “Slow practice IS the shortcut”but somehow I never heard it when I really needed it. So I would say those things to my 23-year-old self and I would also tell him to be more open and courageous with relationships. And exercise more.

- Fraser Jackson


What would you say to your 23-year-old self? Comments are always appreciated!


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