Formerly published in The Other Press. Apr. 9 2013
By Elliot Chan, Staff Writer
Hockey skates carving through a clean sheet of ice used to be music to Tim Zacharias. As a teenager he was more interested in scoring goals than strumming guitars. Now, on his 25th birthday, he is humming a different tune. “I’m glad I’m a realist,” said Zacharias describing his six years of experience on the Coquitlam rep minor hockey team. “Nothing clicked and I was always a little guy. It’s competitive.”
But transitioning from hockey to classical guitar was not spontaneous. During the last year of his hockey season, Zacharias took a few weeks at the end to evaluate his goals—not on the scoreboard, but in life. Music was not the obvious choice. He had goofed around on the guitar with friends, but he never took it seriously. So he spent few years after high school working as a sous chef at Earls and traveling across Europe.
Then an epiphany struck him one evening in a most unfamiliar place: Greece. “I saw the sun setting,” he said, looking pensively out the window at the Douglas College courtyard. “Then it came to my mind—I should go to school for music.” His face broke with a smile, remembering that euphoric state where body and mind approached a grand realization.
From 6 a.m. in the morning to 9 p.m. at night, the bachelor of music degree at Douglas keeps him busy. But Zacharias doesn’t want his art to imitate his life. “I want it to be relaxed,” he said. “But I can’t always be, because some performances are really important.”
So many unfortunate scenarios could happen during the course of a performance that Zacharias could only shrug them off. His positivity was his callus, and although it might protect him from exterior criticisms, he could not defend against his own self-consciousness.
During a solo performance in front of more than 400 people, Zacharias was so consumed in a zealous act that he lost awareness of his physical form. That was until he heard through his own music and into the crowd, “Wow,” said a voice from the audiences, “look at that guy’s face.” The synapses clicked and suddenly he was diverted from the piece he was playing. “It is really instinctual,” he explained. “It is hard to say what you do, because you don’t know what you do. You are in a surreal situation and your body panics, but at the same time it figures out what to do. It may not sound good and it may not be right, but it is usually something that gets you through it. It’s not fun.”
Coping with failure is never easy, but all Zacharias has to do is put it into perspective. “I put down my guitar for the rest of the day,” he said, retracing his steps to recuperation. “I try to focus away from it. Sleep on it. Next day I’ll wake up feeling pretty crappy, but slowly I reassure myself and talk myself out of it being important. At the end of the day it is just a performance, I’m not saving lives.”
Zacharias did not celebrate on his 25th birthday. He does not measure his growth with arbitrary milestones. Between classes, practices, and weekly gigs, he barely has time to himself, let alone parties. “I’m blessed,” he said perking up in his seat with an exuberated smile. Wherever life takes him, Zacharias knows that he won’t get there by crowd surfing or power sliding off the stage, rather by the way of his music—with a well thought out repertoire.