Opinion: How Quitting Music Made Me An Artist

I graduated from Juilliard in 1992 with two pieces of professional advice. The first was, “Take care of the music, and the music will take care of you.” The second was, “If you can see yourself doing anything else, do it.” I accepted the first piece of advice as an article of faith: a noble contract. The second I dismissed as irrelevant. I had never seen myself doing anything else but music.

But six months after graduation, I quit.

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Opinion: Music and climate change

WHEN I WAS 14 YEARS OLD, I decided I would become a professional musician because it had nothing to do with oil. I was born in Fort McMurray, Alberta, home to Canada’s notorious tar sands and the world’s third largest oil reserve. For a time, I lived in a neighborhood called Petrolia. Our hero was Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers. The McDonalds had a pumpjack in the playground.

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Tanya Kalmanovitch named to the Grist 50 Fixers

She grew up next to the biggest bitumen oil reservoir in the world. Her neighborhood in Fort McMurray, Alberta, is informally called Petrolia, the nearest professional hockey team is the Edmonton Oilers, and a local playground has a pumpjack. Oil, Kalmanovitch says, “paved the way for my family to go from being rural poor people to entering into the middle class.”

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Tar Sands Songbook in the Edmonton Journal

Earlier this summer, as I was preparing to leave for Alberta, the Edmonton Journal's Roger Levesque interviewed me about my project.  I was apprehensive about being interviewed for a project that hadn't yet begun, but it was a good note upon which to start my journey, and a vote of confidence in my idea that a personal conversation about oil and our relationship to it is a conversation worth having.

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Tanya KalmanovitchComment
OpEd in the Boston Globe

“Music is a potent mechanism for self-actualization,’’ said Tanya Kalmanovitch, a violist and professor at the New England Conservatory of Music. “To be able to convey something through music requires you to recognize that you have something to say, and that you have a right to say it. That alone in many contexts can be a radical political act.’’

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