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Coming out of the closet

March 15, 2012 at 5:32 AM

"Are you busy on Monday and Wednesday evenings?"
"Uhmm....well, I'm pretty tired because of work. Why?"
"Would you be interested in joining the university orchestra?"

This conversation took place between my teacher and me a couple of weeks ago, and resulted in me attending my first ever orchestra rehearsal today at the university where I work. Joining the orchestra was a big step for me because being an adult learner, I've always been very self-conscious when I play and am, so-to-speak, a closet violinist. The only people who have really heard me play are my teachers and some very, very close friends (and maybe some not-so-thrilled neighbors...). If my teacher hadn't presented the opportunity to me, I would probably never have had the courage to join an ensemble and play in a group, despite wanting to share my music with others.

During the last couple of weeks, I have been wavering between excitement and nervousness. Questions of self-doubt keep popping up, like "what business do I have trying to play with others who have probably been playing since they were little, who have years of experience already?? Little me, who's only been playing a couple of years. Who still has trouble playing in tune (or sometimes even tuning her violin!)." or "What even happens at an orchestra rehearsal?" The whole situation is very unfamiliar for me.

My teacher has been great in the last couple of weeks, helping me prepare for orchestra with site-reading a lot of new music. Last lesson, she brought the music that the orchestra is playing and we played through the first half of it during my lesson, trouble-shooting problem areas, and she gave me lots of tips, like if I was nervous about tuning, to tune my violin before I left home, etc.

Enter today, the big day, my first rehearsal. dumdumdum...heart pounding, I left work a few minutes early, with heavy anticipation, not knowing what to expect. Getting there, not knowing where to sit, but finding the conductor to be very nice (and humerous!), and the orchestra to be filled with both students and others who are older like me. This all helped me to relax, and to enjoy myself, letting me weather the several mini-disasters that crept up.

Like tuning - Because I live in the mid-west, weather changes a lot throughout the day, causing an in-the-morning-nicely-in-tune-violin to become a by-the-end-of-the-day-sitting-for-the-first-time-in-orchestra-rehearsal-violin to be horribly out-of-tune, causing a very-nervous-self-concious-adult-violin-learner to discover that it is even harder to tune in the midst of others trying to do the same than it is at home.....and causing every note played on the Ding to be an ear-crunching XXXXXX (insert your favorite negative word here).

After "tuning," the second disaster hit immediately when the conductor started with "ok, everyone turn to the third to last page. We're beginning with the last movement." Yuck. Site-reading! Oh dear, oh dear, I only got through the first half with my teacher, I haven't even looked at the end yet!! sigh.

In the end, though, it was ok. Everyone else was sight-reading as well, and my stand partner only managed to play just a little bit more than me...maybe around half :D And she was nice enough to pluck her D string so I could FINALLY get my silly ornery weather-giddy violin in tune!

Actually, it was all quite fun, and I am very much looking forward to the next rehearsal next week! I think I will really enjoy playing in the orchestra, and am glad to have the chance to play in it. And maybe, just maybe, I will build up the courage to be more than just a closet violinist, and come out of the closet, so-to-speak, and play in other venues as well.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on March 15, 2012 at 1:15 PM
Coming out of the "closet" and into an orch is a great way to start on your path to finding fulfillment as a violinist. You will have fun and meet people with other ideas about fun things to do with your violin. Good luck!
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on March 15, 2012 at 1:21 PM
Congratulations, this sounds great! I find it very motivating to learn and perform orchestra music. I think you will really enjoy the people you meet in an orchestra. It's also a good place to find other opportunities to play music, such as people interested in smaller chamber groups. Good luck!
From Emily Hogstad
Posted on March 15, 2012 at 2:50 PM
I love this blog. I had a similar situation lately and the moral I took away from it was...Go For It! Just wait till you get a chance to perform. :)
From Linda Louise Ford
Posted on March 15, 2012 at 5:57 PM
Very nice article about coming out. Keep going. If you have good instruction,proper practice, time and really want to play the violin beautifully, nothing can stop you from getting better. You are an inspiration to all who wish to be life long learners.
From Gabrielle Bratt
Posted on March 15, 2012 at 9:13 PM
I had a similar situation happen to me a few months ago! I'm an adult beginner/intermediate violinist now, so I know exactly what you went through. It's great and very comforting to know that there are other people who have the same doubts and worries as me (learning to block out everyone else as they're tuning can be tricky!) That first day is the craziest, yet coolest experience ever. Good luck! :)
From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on March 15, 2012 at 9:36 PM
You can't write this long of a blog and not tell us what music you're playing!
From David Rowland
Posted on March 16, 2012 at 12:51 AM
Your experience was very similar to mine... and others I know. We adult learners all seem to share a lot of the same fears and apprehensions.

A suggestion for your tuning problems is to get a tuner that clamps to your violin and reads the instruments vibrations. They're great for tuning in noisy environments and can help you to build confidence.

From Elizabeth Musil
Posted on March 16, 2012 at 3:06 AM
Thanks everyone for all of your positive responses! I'm really looking forward to the next rehearsal. It's cool to see how many of you who have replied have had a similar experience.

Lisa, We are playing Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 5. In all of my nervousness, I hadn't actually looked at the title of what we are playing until you asked me :D

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