Since I was unable to play for auditions this semester, and was thus left out of the seating chart, the university student who leads the second violins (and is also my fantastic new teacher) put me in the last stand by the trumpets to help suppress the overactive vocal chords of a younger member of the orchestra. At first I was mildly disappointed - I had, after all, been the co-principle of the seconds last semester, and I was hoping to break into the principle's chair this time. My stomach lurched as I headed backward, far far away from my former desk. Where's the prestige in that, especially for someone who has no other life besides violin-playing and orchestra? I tuned up in dismay.
My chatty stand-partner arrived late, took out his violin, started sneezing, announced he needed a Kleenex, set his violin down precariously on the top of his case, hopped off away, and left me and my teacher to quick lean over in our chairs (while still following the music) to keep his fiddle from crashing down onto the floor-tiles. We grinned at each other... And that was my introduction to my stand partner.
We were playing Copland's Outdoor Overture, which has a couple of a couple of high nasty runs in it, when my stand partner stopped playing in frustration. I felt his eyes gravitating toward my hands and watching my every bow stroke, and the next measure later he tentatively tried the run again. He did better that time, and the rush of pride was overwhelming. Time and time again he glanced over to get the rhythm or the melody, and although I made more mistakes than I'd have liked, he seemed to pick up on it pretty quickly. It was fascinating as I found myself thinking as a violin teacher would for the first time ever, wondering things like how can I show this technique? What should I do so that I can play better to set a good example? What works? What doesn't? It was like I was opening the door to a beautiful new room in the mansion of violin playing.
Alas, I was really enjoying my ego trip - the whole "I Can't Believe I'm Such A Great Violinist" Moment - when he giggled, "I forgot to take my mute off!" and he quick snapped it off his bridge. I glanced down at my own bridge and realized I hadn't taken mine off, either. He looked at me, and I looked at him, and I know we were both thinking the same thing: what a dufus Emily is! We both had to struggle to contain our laughter.
The great thing about playing in an orchestra is that the experience always gives me what I quite frankly deserve.
I learned an important lesson Tuesday evening: there are no un-prestigious spots in orchestra: even the last chair of the second violins. It was a lesson I sorely needed to learn.
I play a recital in December at the local university. I was going to play the first movement of the Bach double with a chap I haven't even met, but I don't know. My lessons cost a dollar or two above average so that my teacher can pay a proper accompanist during her studio's three annual recitals, so I'm thinking about giving the pianist a run for her money and making her play Kol Nidrei with me, with a couple cuts. We'll see.
Violinist Frank Almond tells the life story of the 1715 Lipinski Strad in his new recording, "A Violin's Life."
Emily Hogstad is from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Biography
Please consider supporting Violinist.com by becoming a sponsor, and reaching our dedicated community of violin professionals, students and fans!