Caitlin Berger is no ordinary flutist or flute teacher. During the pandemic, she started a monthly online concert and chat session live stream on Youtube. The videos are available for replay, with performances sectioned out. She hosts and performs from her bedroom, giving an intimate and personal feel. Viewers (audiences) can ask questions and engage with her through chat.
She also formed an online school with others, following the cooperative model, as a board member, and reversing the teacher-administrative overhead ratio. Online reduces and nearly removes the overheads of in-person, and as such, also levels the playing field.
Her interview will be published on July, 7th on our YouTube Channel.
WHAT EDUCATION HAVE YOU COMPLETED AND WHAT DID YOU GAIN FROM THOSE EXPERIENCES?
I studied flute since the age of 9, starting with the elementary school band and moving on to private lessons at age 10. I only decided I wanted to study music professionally at the end of my high school years. I went on to study flute performance in CEGEP (which is kind of like college; in between high school and university), then at McGill University for my undergrad and the University of Montreal for my graduate diploma. I gained so much experience in flute repertoire as well as chamber music ensembles and large ensembles.
WHAT OBSTACLES HAVE YOU OVERCOME TO GET WHERE YOU ARE TODAY? BOTH PROFESSIONALLY AND PERSONALLY?
I have overcome many obstacles and adversity to get where I am today! The main one was that I used to have a fixed mindset – I thought talent was innate and if you were good at something, you didn’t have to put effort into it. This myth held me back from making progress on the flute for many years, because I didn’t think I had to put too much work into it. It also made me believe that if I “failed” at something, it meant I was a bad flutist and it reflected negatively on my self-worth. When I read the research by Carol Dweck about growth mindset, it changed how I approached talent and intelligence. I let go of the words “good” and “bad” because they don’t really mean anything! I chose to focus on self-compassion and joy in playing music instead.
I have also always dealt with performance anxiety and went through a lot of painful experiences because of it. Through the years, I’ve come up with ways of managing this issue, such as diligent preparation before performances, planning out everything I will do and eat on performance days, and coming up with positive affirmations to avoid negative thoughts. I’ve realized it’s most helpful to focus on all the things that are in our control and to let go of things that are not.
AS A MUSICIAN, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF TO AN AUDIENCE THAT HAS NEVER HEARD OR SEEN YOU BEFORE?
I would describe myself as a musician whose passion for knowledge and social justice is at the forefront of what I do. Through my performance projects, I tell stories and connect with audiences about social issues, music, and life itself. I celebrate imperfection and thrive through self-compassion.
IN WHAT WAYS ARE YOU MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN PEOPLE’S LIFE THROUGH YOUR MUSIC CAREER?
I’m making a difference by including social justice issues in the field of classical music. I’m not interested in just walking onstage, playing my music, bowing, and leaving. I’m interested in connecting with audiences during concerts, sharing knowledge and information with them, learning from them, and creating a more modern concert experience together. Also, during my concert series, I encourage people to send me tips and I send 50% of what I receive either to the Black Healing Fund or to Indigenous people in need in the Montreal area. It’s important to me to contribute to the well-being of Black and Indigenous communities since they have been and continue to be the most targeted and oppressed groups in our society.
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