Playing a solo can be daunting, especially when others are watching.
I remember the queasy feeling in my stomach when my Grade 9 music teacher told me that I would be playing a few solo bars on the baritone tuba in “Sentimental Clown”.
He also told me that I would have to practice hard because we were playing in the Sackville Music Festival in the spring.
Looking back now, I realize he was soft-selling me on the idea of playing a solo.
Enthusiastically, I accepted the challenge. And, with lots of practice and coaching, I not only played the part but got to celebrate with my fellow band members when we received top marks for our class.
It was a high point in my tiny tuba career. (I changed my instrument to guitar in Grade 10.)
This childhood memory came rushing back to me this week as I thought about P.E.I.’s Sannu Lawt, this year’s Suzanne Brenton Award winner, how she feels about being a soloist in the P.E.I. Symphony Orchestra concert at Zion Presbyterian Church in Charlottetown this weekend.
Turns out I’m not alone.
“There’s always that butterflies feeling, you know, an adrenalin (rush). But, because I play so frequently it’s something I kind of enjoy now. So it’s part of the experience for me,” says the second year Mount Allison music student, who will be in the spotlight Sunday as she performs Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, under the direction of guest conductor Dinuk Wijeratne.
At 19 Lawt is thrilled.
“Just to have the opportunity to play with a great symphony like this and an amazing conductor, it’s an honour. There are so many musicians on the Island and not many of them have an opportunity to play with something so big, like a symphony, so I’m really excited.”
It’s also an opportunity that she doesn’t take for granted.
That’s because there’s been countless hours of practise and preparation.
Lawt has been actively learning the piece since September 2016. And she’s memorized it for the concert.
“It’s been a bit of muscle memory and total focus on the piece. With muscle memory, your mind can wander off. So, every time I practise, I have to be in the moment. It’s like an actor learning his lines. He can’t just say them, he has to deliver them in the moment.”
On a more comforting note, Lawt will be among friends this weekend.
The Charlottetown native has been playing with the PEISO for the past three years.
“So just to play alongside of them is magnificent,” says Lawt, adding she appreciates the musical opportunities that P.E.I. has afforded as well as her family who has “let me do what I love.
“I’ve been blessed.”
Up close and personal with Sannu Lawt:
Beginnings: Started violin lessons at age four
Early steps: Joined Singing Strings at age eight
Favourite P.E.I. teachers: Sue Irvine, Jenet Clement and Fran McBurnie
Favourite pastime: Fencing, going the gym
Favourite book: “The Hobbit”
Favourite food: Beef ramen, salmon sushi
Parents: Aung and Ging Lawt, Charlottetown
Call in and win
The question is: What university does Sannu Lawt attend?
The prize: A pair of tickets to Sunday’s concert.
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To enter: Call The Guardian’s Phone and Win contest line at 902-629-1707.
Sally Cole is an entertainment writer with The Guardian. She welcomes comments about her column as well as suggestions for future columns from readers. She may be reached at sally.cole@TheGuardian.pe.ca or by phone at 902-629-6000, ext. 6054.