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When music is life
When I walked into the reception area of the International School of Port of Spain to interview Ms Inge Schlüer, a very talented violinist, pianist and singer, my imagination has already conjured up a few options of what she might look like. But the Inge Schlüer I met looked nothing like them. At 25 years old, Inge looks as extremely youthful as if she was fresh out of University herself, prettily yet properly attired in a slender dress and matching bolero jacket. Her students certainly have quite a role model in their young teacher.
She is the daughter of a Trinidadian mother and German father whom she tragically never knew as he died before she was born. An only child, Inge grew up in Mt Lambert with her mother, her grandfather and music. Music has always been in her life in one form or another, beginning with both her mother and grandfather being members of the prestigious Lydians, Added to that, her grandfather’s great love of the classics meant having them on constant replay throughout her childhood. She herself began piano lessons at age 3 with Sylvia Robin, and then violin lessons with Esther Batson at age 7. By her late teens she was teaching violin herself, and was a member of both the St Augustine Chamber Orchestra and the National Sinfonia Orchestra. She has performed with the Lydians for Prince William and was honoured to play the National Anthem on the violin for the 2013 Soca Monarch finals.
She now holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Musical Arts HONS, graduating at the top of her class, and will complete her Masters in Education in a few months. She was a Grade 5 teacher, the youngest on staff, up until the last school year ended on June 21st… when it re-opens she will be the Elementary School Music Teacher. Music is Inge’s ‘best friend’, as it has been with her throughout her life and has helped her get through the most difficult moments, of which there have been many. Besides losing her dad before she even met him, her grandmother also died during her mother’s pregnancy, a severe double tragedy for the family that even her birth could do little to assuage. Years later she had to live through the deaths of two more people in her life, her adored grandfather when she was 13 and then her beloved ‘aunty Pat’ [Bishop], whom she had known for her entire life, in 2011. Though so youthful in appearance, it’s obvious in her eyes how her life’s experience thus far has matured her beyond her years. It shows when you look at the people she is most comfortable around too…. all far older than her but with whom she feels more kinship than people her own age.
Inge doesn’t shy away from admitting that she has had to deal with a lot in her life, even though talking about it is still raw enough to bring tears during our interview, but she is very practical and matter-of-fact about it. There’s a lot that she would change if she could but she is fully cognizant of and grateful for the multitude of blessings that have always flowed her way as well. All of it, good AND bad, has shaped her into the unique individual that she is, and that it’s all up to her now to use that to her fullest advantage. Inge has clear goals, big dreams and a five year plan, which includes wrapping up her Doctorate thesis, honing her talent to the best of her ability and allowing it to take her to the international stage (her greatest ‘wish-come-true’ would be to perform at the Apollo with Alicia Keys) and then bringing all of that knowledge, skill and experience right back here.
She feels disappointed with what she sees as a lack of desire in our people to get things done properly, see things through thoroughly and execute them efficiently and capably. She knows that we have a tremendous reservoir of talent in this country but is frustrated that the only way they can achieve their fullest potential is to take their talents elsewhere. Her ultimate goal is to elevate the status of the arts in T&T, and educate future generations on the importance of celebrating art and culture in society. She aims to experience as many aspects of music as she can – playing, teaching, composing – so that she is not only better informed but better able to inform as well. Her favourite poem is ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’, by Maya Angelou and the following excerpt from it is quite fitting for this impressive, ambitious and forward-thinking young lady:
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