Linda Kundert is the President and Artistic Director of the Calgary Arts Summer School Association and has been a piano teacher and instructor for over 40 years.
In my childhood, music was always a part of our family. We went to church regularly, so I was given the opportunity to sing with my dad and my brothers and I was also lucky enough to have taught myself to play the organ at age 12. I sang in a duet and learned to sing alto. I received an enormous amount of opportunity through that, but as a child, I didn’t think anything of it, it was just part of my life. I never really expected to go into music.
I was initially going to be a nurse, but when I was about 16 I had a boyfriend and he was in an accident, and he ended up having to go to the hospital. I was there visiting him and I could barely walk into the building without having my stomach turn upside down. At the same time, I starting teaching a little girl on the piano, and she was my first student. It felt like this is what I was meant to do.
The only time I ever really questioned my journey through music was when I was working on my Grade 10 Royal Conservatory exam, so I was about 18 or 19 at the time, I realized that I had almost wasted my first 10 years of playing the piano. My technique was poor, my professors at Mount Royal College had to completely re-work my technique, my habits and it was really tough.
I had a real soul-searching week and, to be completely honest, I felt quite low and depressed at the time. I went through all the questions like “Can I do this?” and “Do I want to do this?” There was a lot of back and forth from me, but once I made up my mind to actually do it, I dug deep and worked really hard. Other than that, all my experiences have been mostly positive.
I love working with people and sharing my love of music and bringing that part of my life into their lives.
It’s always incredibly rewarding for me when I see my students eyes light up, when they understand something, or they finally get something, that’s really what I love. Of course there are the big successes, like when you hear them in a recital and they play really well. That’s always a blast. I’ve had the opportunity to hear one of my students actually play at Carnegie Hall, so I’ve had some absolutely amazing highlights.
The Calgary Arts Summer School started out with Jerome’s Yamaha wanting to get together with the artists around Calgary at the time and build this sort of umbrella arts group. They had in the back of their mind that they wanted to have a summer program camp started and in the end, I was asked if I could head it up, so I have been the director for coming up on 25 years now.
We started 25 years ago with the idea that we could provide a summer workshop for eager piano students. Now, we provide seven fine arts courses and workshops, ranging from musical theatre to playwriting camp for kids and masterclasses for adults as well. We have speakers and clinicians flown in and it’s all designed for students of all ages to feel successful and find the artist within themselves.
It’s incredibly cliché, but you want to teach your students so that they can teach themselves. I always try and encourage them to do the best that they can do with their ability, but sometimes their goals are really different than mine, and it can be frustrating.
You have to love people, love children and in the end, be incredibly self-motivated. You’re essentially self-employed, so you have to be okay working alone. Realistically, it’s not the best business if you’re single, because you’re not really out and about meeting lots of people! You have to really want it.
With the amount of students that I have now, and making a full-time living from both the students and the summer camp, I have very little free time. If I have a concert to play, I always make sure to carve out some time to play, but I can’t say I ever just go sit and play very much.
When you have an eight-hour day of teaching, it is very hard to go and sit down and play more. A lot of people don’t understand how much work is behind being an independent piano teacher. You need the passion, you need the discipline, but at the end of the day, it is incredibly rewarding seeing your students succeed.
As told to Colin Macgillivray. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Editor: Anna Junker | firstname.lastname@example.org