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Laurie Niles

A symphony rehearsal: it's way more organized than real life.

June 17, 2008 at 6:18 AM

I sat down at orchestra rehearsal today, and I realized that this is one of the most blessedly easy things I do in life.

It's so straightforward: in front of me sits the chart. I just play it. If I do everything requested on that page, I can leave the rehearsal reasonably satisfied that I've done a good job. And I love applying myself to the task: blocking the rest of life out and counting, watching the conductor, playing the right notes, nailing down every dynamic and nuance, hitting every entrance, and getting every articulation right. It takes concentration, and I'm happy to give it.

Because the rest of my life is not so elegantly and beautifully defined as is my part in a symphony orchestra. Where's that chart telling me how to be a parent? Or the one that aims me the perfect direction in my career or finances? And even the directions I do receive point all over the place; they don't always end up making my life into noble music.

And so I love my time in the orchestra chair.

If you are in Southern California this week, come see me playing a lot of cowboy music in the Pasadena Pops. Okay the actual draw would be Michael Martin Murphey, but hey, I'll be in the second fiddles!

I'd also like to announce something completely unrelated to the above blog and to violin playing: Robert and I have started another website, called It's a website meant to encourage responsibility in the media and politics. So are you fired up about something that doesn't have to do with the violin? Come on over and visit!

From Tom Holzman
Posted on June 17, 2008 at 2:20 PM
Having a conductor makes a lot of difference. When was the last time anyone in your family or the world at large paid attention when you did the equivalent of signalling a downbeat.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on June 17, 2008 at 4:58 PM
I think it's the composer that makes the difference actually. It's all...orchestrated!
From Tom Holzman
Posted on June 18, 2008 at 12:51 AM
You would be surprised what can happen to composed music without the conductor. The musical version of "life is what happens when you are making other plans."
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on June 18, 2008 at 4:21 AM
I think it takes the whole team to make it or break it. Having been one too many poorly skilled amateur groups myself, I can say neither great conductor nor fantastic concertmaster can make a week group to produce miracle. This is true to some extent in non-musical settings. A highly competent team needs no leader and a bad lead can ruin the best team, but then if you’ve hired a bunch of people ill-fitted for the job, you aren’t going to have a dream team no matter how hard you try.
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on June 18, 2008 at 4:23 AM
Sorry for all the typos! Weak not week, leader not lead... Yikes! I wish I could edit in responding to a blog like in a discussion.
From Terez Mertes
Posted on June 19, 2008 at 12:55 PM
I love what you wrote, Laurie. For me, it's why I like my (very) part-time library job. It's such a controlled, serene environment; I go, I shelve books, I assist patrons with questions I can answer and enjoy digressing about. It's a great day. Then I go back home, to parenting, and to life. Sigh...

Thank goodness for libraries and orchestras.

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