Troy Stuart, cellist with the Ritz Chamber Players, studied with me when he was in middle school (in an after-school program) and then for his first two years of high school at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Now he holds my former position there, and also teaches at the Peabody Preparatory, where I taught as well. He’s profiled in today’s Baltimore Sun in article about African-Americans in classical music.
I almost cried when I read this:
In the 1980s, as a graduate student at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, the toughest challenge Stuart faced wasn’t in the pieces he studied, but in a large mirror on the practice room wall – the reflection of an African-American staring back at him.
“I had to cover it for the first half-year,” Stuart says. “I wasn’t gaining any confidence from seeing myself. If I had had a Yo-Yo Ma to look up to, I know I wouldn’t have had any problem looking into that mirror. I still remember the first time I saw an African-American on a classical album cover, I almost fainted.”
I knew it was hard for him growing up in an African-American neighborhood and being the guy into cello and classical music, not basketball. I didn’t know it was that hard. I don’t know if there’s anything I could have done. I just know that I thought he was amazing and I loved being his teacher.
Troy speaks in the video on the Baltimore Sun site (I cannot figure out how to embed it here) about finding your passion. It’s over twenty years ago that we worked together; I remember his boundless, sometimes hard-to-channel, enthusiasm as if it were yesterday. It was obvious back then he’d found his passion. The irrepressible spirit I remember so well from 1984 seems to have remained, well, irrepressed.