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The benefits of studying classical music: Ted Dykstra, theatre artist

The benefits of studying classical music: Ted Dykstra, theatre artist featured image

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, we’ll get to know Ted Dykstra, a powerhouse in the Toronto theatre scene, who most recently co-founded Coal Mine Theatre with Diana Bentley. Ted has acted, directed, written and/or composed for every major theatre in Canada and cities just as New York, London, and Tokyo. He is a founding member of Soulpepper Theatre and perhaps best known for co-creating 2 Pianos 4 Hands, one of the most successful (and hysterically funny) plays in Canadian history. Obviously, his classical music training had a direct impact on his ability to portray a budding concert pianist in the play, but I wanted to know how it influenced him in general.

Please summarize your current career, and your duties.
Chief Engineer, Coal Mine Theatre, actor, director, composer.

What instrument(s) did you study, and at what stage in your life?
Piano, age 7-17.

Were music lessons intended as a hobby or did you have a performing career in mind?
Both!

Was quitting your music lessons a welcome relief or a complete heart-wrenching moment of reckoning?
Neither, it was a transition to the theatre.

Oh! I’m glad it was a smooth transition. How did your classical music studies (and music theory, if you studied that too) impact your ability to do your job today?
There are too many ways to count or recognize, but here goes:
-Discipline
-Awareness of history
-Awareness of structure
-Love of all music
-Music was, and still is, a place to be comforted …

…indeed. I like that. 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?
Yes I play a bit, and my kids play piano, drums, ukulele, and violin.


This is a promotional video featuring 2 Pianos 4 Hands creators Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, highlighting both their acting and piano skills.

Currently, different actors portray Ted and Richard; info here. If you recognize the guy on the left, that’s Max Roll, whom I interviewed here.

For what Ted is up to these days, have a look at Coal Mine Theatre.


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

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