Breaking the Glass Window, and Escaping the Gym in the Woods.

Harry got slowly out of bed and started looking for socks. He found a pair under his bed and, after pulling a spider off one of them, put them on. Harry was used to spiders, because the cupboard under the stairs was full of them, and that was where he slept.— Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

We are very familiar with an image as musicians and artists; the musician is looking out the glass window while other children play outside making castles out of cardboard, swimming in the glistening pool, drawing flowers, and writing Barney Sucks on the sidewalk with colorful chalk. What these children do not know is that one day when they want to become musicians and artists they will also be subjected and selected to the same child trapped by the glass window. There are both similarities to the child on the field in the woods and the child in the house practicing and practicing with no breaks or time to be who they are, a child with a childhood.

Despite having Asperger’s and all the hardships and struggles that come with it; I had a childhood along with being a young tuba player. Sometimes I brought my tuba on trips and played for family members. I even was a part of a music camp run by the Herter Music Stores, where I was placed in the highest level (Red Band) as the only girl tuba player. There I had fun with other kids and I never felt like a token but a person who wanted to have fun and play music. Being the first chair was hard so our section leader played with me and one piece we played was Sousa’s The Thunderer March which has fun low brass passages. They had a water trampoline where I did the greatest cannonball and floated back up which surprised people. I went on a zipline for the first time in terror and surprise. At Herter, I felt like a person and not a token.

Yet many children in the performing arts feel that to be good musicians they must give up the one precious thing which is their personality and identity as a child. When people hear the German word Wunderkind they think genus-child when this word actually means something musicians sometimes lose when they become professionals; the wonder, fun, joy, and magic music, and music-making brings us. It also means that children are wonderful and full of wonderful things. Music loses its magic and wonder when people judge, when it becomes for the rich when it becomes a profit, or sport when it becomes all a competition and not about education, exploration, and curiosity.

Musicians like Arnold Jacobs loved the joy of teaching a variety of people; but he also knew the dangers of music educators who do not embrace the messages of people like Fred Rogers, Alfie Kohn, and others who knew about toxic competition and elitism in performing arts education. The reason why he was against the old audition process is that it sends a message of exclusion rather than embracing inclusion through teaching all children regardless.

Children not only have joys but things they are terrified of; when tubist Charles Dallenbach was in ninth grade he had braces which is a terrifying thing to have in your mouth. After Dietrich Fisher Dieskau got out of art school he had to join the most terrifying thing; the Wehrmacht and was a prisoner of war. Carrol Spiny had an abusive father, Theodore Geisel had stage fright, Tezuka Osamu would buy comics and go to the theater only to have them be gone into ashes the next day.

But like Harry Potter, there is in every artist's life a Hagrid that helps us escape and find ourselves. For Carrol Spiny it was Jim Henson and we as children know him as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.

After the war, Dietrich Fisher Dieskau became the most recorded Baritone and his performance of Schubert’s Der Erlkonig has now become viral along with Franzl Lang’s Auf und Auf Voll Lebenslust.

Tezuka Osamu is now one of the most-read manga artists in the world for his creations Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and Phoenix which is his crowning achievement.

Theodore Geisel the boy with stage fright and a freighting piano teacher, became Dr. Seuss and fought his fears with a film, The 5000 Fingers of Dr.T, which lampooned White Power and The Red Scare. He also had this to say

Why fit in when you were born to stand out!

Tezuka’s Phoenix is our symbol because performing artists need to know that they do have wings to fly out of the cage of abuse, neglect, discrimination, and toxic competition.

You are not alone.

Originally published at



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Christina Bishop

Tuba player, creator of Struwwelkinder and The Flying Circus Orchestra