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The Benefits of Studying Classical Music: Tim Crouch, music administrator

The Benefits of Studying Classical Music: Tim Crouch, music administrator featured image

Photo: Jonathan Tan

I love writing about the “stuff you don’t think about” when it comes to life as a musician, and I also wanted to investigate something a little different: those who aren’t classical musicians, but studied it enough to reap the benefits in other aspects of lives.

The reason I chose this topic is very basic: “studying classical music is good for you” and while that’s a given, I wanted to personalize why. The other reason was to sort out my own personal experience with studying music to a certain level (Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Music and Bachelor of Music), which sometimes conflicted with my knowledge I didn’t want to be a performer. This de-motivated me now and then, and it wasn’t clear back then what the point was – if music is to be performed, why am I working so hard at performance? I didn’t realize the advantages until much later.

In this ongoing series, I’ll be speaking with doctors, lawyers, marketing professionals, accountants, actors, arts administrators, and people in all kinds of fields who studied classical music and are thankful they did. I’ll keep this going until I run out of participants.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. Today, let’s get to know Tim Crouch, a thoughtful and charming mover and shaker in the arts world. He trained as a flutist and is an administrator for several arts groups in Toronto.

Please summarize your current career, and your duties.
Where to begin! I split my time between a few different groups, so any day could bring a set of new challenges (read: opportunities). I’m Senior Manager, Marketing and Audience Engagement at Tafelmusik, which means I spend my days working on filling the halls with happy fans, cooking up new forms of outreach for our music outside the concert hall, new ways of keeping our current audiences happy and engaged, and helping with the manufacturing of our record label, Tafelmusik Media. Continuum Contemporary Music  has been fun the last few years to exercise my Public Relations chops, while Blythwood Winds  contains a healthy mix of filling halls, grant-writing, and to keep up my performing! And I’m Co-Chair of the Classical nominations committee at the Juno Awards (no, I’m not one of the judges). Our amazing committee looks at submissions to determine that they qualify; we make recommendations for the categories to the good folks at the Junos, and help every year with the classical nominees showcase as part of Junofest. This year was a blast at the CBC building in Vancouver, and we had the entire concert broadcast nationally – a big win for classical! I also work and share ideas with incredible colleagues along the Bloor Street Culture Corridor,  Toronto’s most diverse arts and culture district.

What instrument(s) did you study, and at what stage in your life?
I grew up in small-town Ontario (Fenelon Falls, in the Kawarthas), and feel really fortunate to have had options to take many instruments, as well as very supportive parents. I started with piano and continued that throughout high school. Flute I started at age 10, and it’s the instrument I stuck with through high school, then undergrad at Western University, Masters at U of T, and then an Artist Diploma at the Glenn Gould School. I grew up in a musical family – my brother still performs trumpet and composes, mom is a pianist, and dad dabbles in singing and cello (and is a happily retired dentist).

Were music lessons intended as a hobby or did you have a performing career in mind?
I suppose it was a bit of a hobby at the start. To be honest, I never had that “calling” that other musicians seem to have. I was always impressed when my classmates could point out the moment they fell in love with music, but also a little worried since I never really had those thoughts or moments I could point to. People told me I had a talent for it, and so I kept with it. Of course I loved performing (and still do, in more than just the musical sense), but I figured it would lead to an academic career teaching or possibly head into the music history field. I guess to sum up this answer (too late), it was either Music or Engineering in my mind – so that shows how back and forth I was with the whole thing!

When you say you love performing in more than the musical sense, what do you mean by that?
I mean by being a speaker on panels, emcee of concerts, addressing the public, etc. It’s a form of performing, and training as a musician prepared me for that.

Was quitting your music lessons a welcome relief or a complete heart-wrenching moment of reckoning?
I guess I’m a special case in that I’ve never really quit. My lessons stopped when I ended my schooling. I would look at this question as “Do I miss performing?”. I still perform with my awesome quintet (and we keep pretty busy!), but the lessons are long done and finding time to practice is a challenge. I do miss lessons not just for the musical instruction, but for the life lessons it taught me (more on that below!). The older I’ve gotten, the more respect I have, and value I see, in the teacher-student/master-apprentice relationship. It’s a really beautiful thing that can be engaging, philosophical, and deeply rewarding. Luckily my amazing teachers taught me enough to continue exploring on my own, and to continue performing with the limited time I can give to it. And that’s enough to keep me happy. A shout-out to all my teachers throughout the years – Gael Morrison (piano) and Dianna Scates (flute) growing up, and flute teachers Fiona Wilkinson at Western University, and Leslie Newman at the University of Toronto and the Glenn Gould School. And all my band teachers!

How did your classical music studies (and music theory, if you studied that too) impact your ability to do your job today?
This is a great question! Taking lessons means you have to be able to handle criticism like a champ, and know that it’s all meant to make you a better musician (or worker). And then of course there’s the discipline of needing to be in a practice room hours each day – a little discipline and focus goes a long way in any job you do. One of the most interesting examples is performing in a small chamber group; in my case, with a quintet. Group work is an essential part of any job you do, and the ability to communicate well, keep on schedule, provide something meaningful to conversations/rehearsals, and to come prepared are life skills that work in both performing and arts administration – I’m very grateful to constantly be transferring skills from both ends of the spectrum to other parts of my life.

Is classical or music in general (playing, listening, attending concerts, getting your kids to practise) a part of your life today? If not, do you think you’ll return to it?
Big yes. It will always be a part of me.

Tim will perform 20th century works with his ensemble, Blythwood Winds, in “Blythwood Blitz” at the Tranzac Club, June 8 at 7:30 pm. They are also performing at the Music Garden at Waterfront –more info at Blythwood Winds.
Follow Tim on Twitter @timcrouchflute

Want to share your experience how studying classical music shaped your life and career?
[email protected]
#musictaughtmeeverything

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