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Victoria Melik

Making music in Milan

Music grad Victoria Melik writes a Postcard to Home from Italy

Story by Victoria Melik (BMus '14)

I left Canada in the fall of 2014, wide-eyed and full of apprehension, but also full of anticipation for my new life in Italy.

A violinist, I had just finished my Bachelor of Music degree at Laurier and decided I wanted to specialize in historically informed performance. I considered various possibilities and ended up with the conservatory in Palermo, Italy, as my choice. It was a funny sort of circling back, since my parents, Polish immigrants, had lived in Italy for almost three years before moving to Canada.

Although I had grown up with a very basic knowledge of Italian, I did not speak the language well, which added to my apprehension. I did know, however, that I deeply wanted to experience life in Italy, so I was ready to face my fears head on.

The opportunity to learn presented itself soon after my arrival. During my first Italian lesson (after having courteously invited me to eat ribollita, a Tuscan stew), my teacher said to his housekeeper with a degree of exasperation: “She knows some words, but verbs – none!”

He sent me home with a thick dictionary and told me to study a page every night.  While I didn’t do that religiously, I did have a television in my house and watched a lot of home improvement and cooking shows. I ended up vastly improving my vocabulary that way.

Video: Learn more about Laurier's Faculty of Music.

I am a naturally talkative person, so I had grown frustrated with not being able to communicate with the people around me. I remember the specific moment I decided to stop being shy and just try to speak Italian. Even though I was unwieldy at first, I remember being complimented to no end by kind strangers for saying a sentence while ordering a coffee or telling a taxi driver my address. This kindness allowed me to overcome my shyness and I now speak Italian fluently.

"I deeply wanted to experience life in Italy, so I was ready to face my fears head on."

Life here is good. After a stint in the south, I now live in Milan, the fast-paced city of fashion and commerce. As a freelance musician, it is the city to find work in Italy. There are two music conservatories here and, being a city with three airports, it is the abode of choice for many musicians.

One thing I had been very much looking forward to while still in Canada was being able to travel for work. While it isn’t an easy life, with frequent absences from home, I am able to maintain myself through playing the baroque violin and have had the chance to play with fantastic orchestras, with fantastic musicians and in fantastic places.

I have performed across Western Europe and toured to Canada and the Near East. I’m also looking forward to a month-long tour of the Far East this fall, which will take me to Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and other countries. In the meantime, I continue the freelance game of constant networking and auditions, always trying to make a good impression.

One big positive is that a few months ago my mom moved back to Italy and is looking to settle down somewhere by the seaside. And my dad is soon moving back to Poland, so I will be relatively close to both of my parents. I’m not sure exactly what life holds in store for me, but I look forward to living it well in this magnificent country.

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