David Greenslade is a piano teacher, church musician, adjudicator and conservatory examiner in Southern Ontario Canada.
Here’s his story …
An uncertain start…
I’m David Greenslade and I live and work in London Ontario Canada, which is a medium-sized city roughly halfway between Toronto, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan.
I experienced my first piano lessons around the age of five (a long time ago now) in a group lesson format. I think it was quickly apparent I had some aptitude for this activity as I became occasionally moderately defiant in class and actually told my teacher “No” one day in refusing to perform a task.
Of course this is very moderate by today’s standards, but I still really heard about it from my mother during the car ride home, and she made me apologize to the teacher in front of the class at the next lesson. It’s one of the few memories I have from this experience. She later told me she thought I was somewhat bored.
After (I think) one year in that program, I started private studies with a local teacher who, while having some physical disability preventing her from playing at a really high level, nonetheless instilled some necessary discipline to my playing at my young age. I studied with her for several years, and did quite well on several conservatory examinations in my time with her.
However, with my immaturity in those years, I did not love music and hated practicing. I made my poor mother’s life hell in our battles and arguments about studying piano, but she held firm and would not let me quit until I was at least 16 years of age.
She felt (correctly) that I would be able to make a more mature decision at that time.
Indeed, I was. By that age, I started to love music, discovered I was somewhat good at it and wanted to continue studies and was considering music for a university major.
Growing to maturity…
So I decided to continue my studies, albeit with a more advanced teacher and, as I was now able to drive myself to my lessons, life became easier for my parents.
Looking back on those years, I am forever grateful to my mother for not giving in and for not letting me indulge my childish fantasy to quit studies. As mentioned, I made her life difficult, but her perseverance was the greatest gift she ever gave me.
My new teacher greatly expanded my horizons and was an invaluable resource for my upcoming university auditions and experience.
While I auditioned as a piano major, and was accepted as such into the University of Western Ontario (now sadly known as Western University), this teacher (himself a prof at Western) encouraged me to switch my major over to organ, knowing my fascination with that instrument and knowing my family attended church.
Indeed, I did and became an organ major – one with an incredibly accelerated first year to catch up to where I should be.
I was even in an organ performance program for my second year, but it was too soon for my study on that instrument and I switched into a musicology program, where I could continue to study my instrument at a high level (I forced myself to do recitals when they were not required in my program) and indulge my love of history all at the same time.
I graduated with my Hon. B.A. and was in a musicology graduate program for a few years, but it wasn’t for me at that time, and I grew discouraged being shuffled from adviser to adviser – and admittedly didn’t work very hard at it as I lost my enthusiasm.
Journey into teaching
At this time, I became a music theory/history teacher at the local conservatory and found myself with a few piano students to boot.
While I’ve had to study piano pedagogy on my own, take a few courses and be mentored under experienced successful teachers, and devoured anything I could learn about it, I discovered an aptitude and a fondness for this work. I became fascinated with how to teach concepts that were easy and second nature to me to those just beginning their journey of discovery.
More recently, I’ve tried learning about teaching children with disabilities, as my oldest stepson does indeed have a learning disability and I saw the difference music made in his life. I’ve been privileged to work with other students with these challenges in the meantime, with similar results.
My students have done well overall, with many succeeding very nicely at conservatory exams and festivals, some pursuing university studies in music, some embarking on more commercial careers and, perhaps most importantly, virtually all others discovering a love of music however it may fit into their lives.
An ongoing journey…
As a church musician, I’ve been fortunate to be a director of some larger church-music programs, where I’ve conducted some of the larger classical church works, have supplied on the organ at the local Anglican cathedral and, through an association with a good local choir, have accompanied choirs on large pipe organs in several large European churches – most notably on a centuries-old organ in Carcassonne, France – all the while wondering how a guy raised in small-town Ontario Canada ended up with such opportunities.
Along the way, and with exceptional mentorship, I’ve also become a conservatory examiner and a festival adjudicator.
In the spring of 2016, after not feeling well for a protracted period, I experienced the shock of my life when I was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour.
After a long surgery and recovery period, teaching piano was the first aspect of my career I returned to and, after some reflection, am so pleased that my life and career went full circle from my very first experiences with music, through this health challenge and back to this place of teaching where I began to rediscover my passion for the piano and for my role in its instruction.
My career indeed went full circle through these many deviations and through this health challenge back to its roots.
While I’ve been immensely grateful for all the aspects of my career, and enjoy the variety of it all, my association with the piano has been the point of departure and at the centre of everything I’ve found myself doing in music. I am immensely humbled and grateful to have discovered this passion.