Not the last you’ll hear of this young man

To the Editor:

My name is Josh Lesperance. I am currently a student at Saugeen District Secondary School in Port Elgin, Ontario. When I was 12 years old, I picked up the tuba for the first time. At that moment, I knew that music was what I wanted to do with my life, and that I wanted to play the tuba more than anything else in the world. It is for this reason that I decided to audition at various universities in order to pursue a degree in music performance. To my great honor, I have recently received news that I have been offered one of only two tuba positions at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. I am beyond excited and extremely grateful for this opportunity.

The Eastman School of Music is one of the top universities for music in North America and one of the most recognized schools worldwide. It is a small conservatory that has a strict focus on all aspects of music, with small classes and the ability to have individual instruction on a regular basis. As well, there are many opportunities for performance and collaboration with others, and the school is committed to creating a challenging, yet supportive learning environment. Only 13% of applicants are accepted each year.

Unfortunately, the cost of attending such a prestigious institution is steep. While I have been lucky enough to receive a merit scholarship for approximately half of the cost of my total tuition for each of the four years, it still leaves a large amount uncovered. The cost of tuition is about $55,000 per year, minus the scholarship amount. Including room and board, that brings the cost per year up to around $73 000. While my parents have been incredibly supportive and have done, and continue to do, everything they can to contribute, the reality of the situation is that we need help to finance this entirely on our own. I intend to work during the summer to save as much as I can, but that will still not be enough.

Although I am applying to every scholarship available to me, I have found that many scholarships and loans are available only to students attending Canadian schools, and thus I am not able to take advantage of them. As a result, I am reaching out to community members and organizations for any help and support that they are able to give.

I have been very lucky to grow up in the community of Grey-Bruce County. While small in number, there is great emphasis placed on music and the arts through community and school programs. I have been involved with many of these programs through my career as a student.

In elementary school, I was involved with all my schools’ bands, and in high school, I have been involved with the Concert Band, the Big Band, the Brass Quintet, and the Pit Band for the SDSS production of Mary Poppins and the upcoming production of The Music Man. I have been involved in the Port Elgin Community Band for 5 years, and recently joined the Southampton Community Band. I have also attended the Southampton Summer Music program for 4 years, where I got to experience what it would be like to play every day and collaborate with my peers.

During my time in high school, I have tried to give back to my elementary school by volunteering to help at band practices and run masterclasses for young musicians. When I go away to school, I will enjoy hearing about how the music community of Grey-Bruce continues to grow and flourish. And whenever I am home, I hope that I will have the opportunity to be a part of the local music community in whatever capacity I can.

As well, I have been fortunate enough to have many playing opportunities outside of my community. I was chosen as one of two tuba players in the National Youth Band of Canada in 2017 and 2018, as well as the Denis Wick Canadian Wind Orchestra and Ontario Provincial Honour Band for all 4 years of my high-school career. This has given me the opportunity to work with various conductors and soloists, as well as music students my age and older from across the country.

I received the National Arts Centre Outstanding Brass Musician award twice at MusicFest Nationals, and recently performed with the Brassroots Solo Competition where I received first place and the opportunity to play a solo accompanied by Brassroots in one of their concerts.

I have also completed my Level 6, 8, 9, and 10 Royal Conservatory of Music exams on tuba, where I have received First Class Honours with Distinction on all exams. As well, I have been proud to represent the Grey County Kiwanis Festival of Music three years in a row at provincials where I received a gold medal each time.

These opportunities have provided me with a solid foundation in my music, and I am eternally grateful for them. I know that the Eastman School of Music is the next step, and that it will push me and challenge me to become the best musician I can be. When I stepped through the doors of the school on my audition day, I felt a sense of belonging. I felt at home. I know within my heart that this school is the next step for me, and it is my dream to attend this school.

We all have many dreams and wishes, and usually we don’t expect them to come true. That is why we call them dreams. But this is the chance to make my dream come true, and I don’t want financial restrictions to get in the way of that. This is a unique and prestigious opportunity and, for a kid from a small community to be offered such a position, is an incredible honour.

I am therefore reaching out to my community for any financial support you may be able to give. As a thank you, I will continue to be involved in the Saugeen Shores community in whatever capacity I can. I am planning on performing at local music concerts, and as thanks, I would be honoured to have you as a guest. I am determined to fulfill my dream, and I hope that you can help me fulfill it.

Josh Lesperance