Drew Smith (English)
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At 25, Drew Smith studied music education at the University of Western Ontario so he could become a music teacher. Now 72-years-old, Drew can say he made it — he is a father, musician, and a friend to others. Even though he has retired from teaching music, you can find him playing the trumpet with his band in several locations around Calgary throughout the year. This is his story.
What did you do when you were 25?
When I was 25, I had to do some research and figure out where I was.
I was in my last year of university at the University of Western Ontario, studying music education.
I spent my time being a dedicated student, trying to get that last year in before going to the teacher’s college so I could find a job and become a music teacher. That was my goal.
You love music, what instruments have you played since you were 25?
My main instrument when I was 25 was the trumpet. I was seriously studying the trumpet. But part of the course of becoming a music teacher is that you have to learn other instruments, and each year we would learn two different instruments.
So, I went through the clarinet, the cello, and percussion instruments. I had to get my grade six piano, so I studied the piano as well.
I also remember being in a flute class with other students just like myself, trying to learn how to play the instrument well enough to teach it as high school or elementary school music teachers.
Music was a thing, but I also always liked golf. My music world and golf would be my hobbies.
What did you think when you were 25?
Religion-wise, I was brought up sort of as a Unitarian, which is just an acceptance of everyone’s religions.
I didn’t have a specific religious focus and I didn’t go to a church, but I respect everyone who has beliefs.
At that time, I got the sense that it was important for me to get a good education, so I was the first in my family to go to university.
I found my way to London, Ontario, and took the courses that allowed me to become a music teacher, which was a great, fun, and very rewarding career.
Since you were 25 to this day, what has changed?
A lot has changed. When you’re 25, you don’t think about meeting someone and getting married. You don’t think so much about having kids, and at a certain point, these things present themselves.
I was happy to get a good job. Being a music teacher was very fulfilling.
What do you do now and what are your beliefs?
I’m retired from teaching, but that allows me to keep playing and maintaining all my social contacts in the music world. It really is a great way to be in retirement.
When I left teaching, a school principal did an exit interview and asked me about what was going to happen next.
He always asked the same questions: ‘What are you going to do when you’re retired?’ And everybody says ‘Travel’.
But when he asked me, before I could say too much, he looked at me and said: ‘But you’ve got music’, and he was right.
During COVID, it was important to have something to do in my own living room, so I just played the trumpet, checked out YouTube videos, and figured out what I could do to get a little bit better. Even though I couldn’t be with people, I had fun.
It all comes back to music. Music keeps me as fulfilled as I want to be.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
My wife, Cindy, was diagnosed with cancer. When we figured that out, she had to have some serious operations to possibly get better.
She did have some good health for two years but passed from cancer when she was 40.
Therefore, my biggest challenge was being a single parent, having two kids, and figuring out that I could keep working but that there was a part of me that was missing.
I got through it because of other people.
What has motivated you or what motivates you?
At this point in my life, because I’m reasonably healthy for my age, what keeps me motivated is being able to share my life with other people — with friends like Donna and the friends that I have in the music world.
Fortunately, because of my education and background, I’m financially secure, which allows me to enjoy life as much as I can under the circumstances.
That has given me a sense of freedom.
What are your goals or plans for the future?
My goals are staying healthy and keeping the relationships that I have.
Maybe get some more traveling in, but it would be nice to be able to stay healthy and connected to the people that I enjoy being with.
What would you say to today’s twenty-somethings?
· Change is inevitable
Change is going to happen unexpectedly, but you can also make changes in your life.
Expect change but believe that you can survive a lot of things, and hopefully, you have enough friends to help you with those changes in your life.
· Follow your passion
If you have something that you can be passionate about and find a career in it or related to it, that’s really important. It has been for me, but you just never know what’s going to happen.
· Put yourself out there
Get an education and be sociable, be out there in the world, and discover new things and your passions.
· Stay Healthy
It doesn’t cost a lot of money to stay healthy. There’s so much you can do to do that — hiking, golfing, skiing, or cycling.
This interview has been edited for clarity. You can listen to the audio interview by clicking here.