In the Italian language, there is a way to use you formally. It’s a way to differentiate between speaking to someone who you know very well and someone with whom you have just met. Most Italians, however, when someone refers to them in this way, tell them to use the informal form. They all say that the formal you makes them feel old. At the Liceo, too, there is an informal environment that seems to make everyone feel equal as musicians. There isn’t so much competition in the air as there is comradery. As in most places, the leader is the one who has a lot to do with creating that sort of environment. The director of the Liceo is a special character who takes everyone under his wing and tries to make them feel at home. He encourages people to meet and become friends, and does not pit them against one another. He treats all of the people who enter the doors of the Liceo like an old friend. The other day, he asked me how old I thought he was, and he told me not to be a stronza. He isn’t worried about how he might look to others, and that encourages his students to take risks. As a musician, the ability to take risks is a valuable skill. Though I love music, I am very much risk averse. I don’t really change my habits much. But the other day, Stefano, the director, and I got to chatting while a group of teachers from the school were practicing. Then, he grabbed me and told me to dance with him. Pretty much every alarm in my body was going off at that point, as I’m a white chick from the farm who doesn’t dance. I protested, but he just asked me what the problem was. I realized there really wasn’t one, since I love to dance, so I danced. I had a lot of fun. That’s the sort of thing that happens at the Liceo every day. People push people to exit their comfort zones, because life is too short to stay away from the beauty and fun a little risk can give. It’s refreshing to be in an environment where there isn’t so much of a focus on formality as there is a focus on friendship.
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