Photo: Light and Lens
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 Stefan Hlouschko, investment analyst, who kept up his violin playing to this day.
Please summarize your current career and your duties.
I studied Engineering Physics at Queen’s University and stayed for a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering where I specialized in studying explosions! Soon after, I began my career in the mining and metals industry. My job was to automate some pretty intense metallurgical facilities and I spent a lot of time at remote sites in Brazil, South Africa, Guatemala, and Ukraine. Today I apply this experience to investment analysis in a variety of areas, including energy, mining, and new technologies.
What instrument did you study and at what stage in your life?
I began studying the violin in Grade 5. My school in Toronto was fortunate enough to have a strings program and I think it was even mandatory to participate. The teacher was a mustachioed drill sergeant who really inspired me. He switched me to cello in Grade 6, but then I changed schools the following year and they already had enough cellos, so I was handed back the violin. I took lessons from Grade 7 until the middle of university at Queen’s.
Were music lessons intended as a hobby or did you have a performing career in mind?
Music lessons were my first real opportunity to focus and work hard in a self-directed way. It was a magnetic attraction that gripped me completely. I never really envisioned a professional performing career, but I absolutely could not treat music as a mere hobby; the discipline was too intense to be considered leisure. All I knew was that I needed to play all the time. Hours and hours spent each day earned me a seat in the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra and then the National Youth Orchestra. Despite the amazing time I had performing and studying, I eventually decided to follow other career interests.
Was quitting music lessons a welcome relief or a complete heart-wrenching moment of reckoning?
Both! I was taking lessons while in second year and I was overextended. There was simply no way to put in the required practice time for all the solo repertoire while studying engineering and playing in the Kingston Symphony, which paid the bills. I decided to stop the lessons and that was very difficult, but it gave me room to focus on my studies and friendships.
How did your classical music lessons impact your ability to do your job today?
A funny story: While working on a project in Ukraine the client boss summoned me to a dinner celebration and announced to everyone at the long and decorated table that I was the son of a famous violinist, which was a complete fiction. He then ordered his son to bring over a violin borrowed from someone in town and began taking requests from the audience. This phenomenon repeated itself later in Guatemala on another project, except I was stranded at a beachside barbeque with parrots flying overhead. So, you see, music lessons are a great tool for business development! On a more practical note, learning and reading sheet music has been indispensable for developing a rigorous sense of visual clarity and that has really helped me at work with explaining complex topics.
Is classical or music in general a part of your life today? If not, will you return to it?
Music is an essential part of my life. Today I play in the Mississauga Symphony and occasionally meet with friends to play chamber music. Even with the increasing demands of work and family, I try to find a few hours each week to play and am eternally grateful for every opportunity.
Want to share your experience how studying classical music shaped your life and career?