Check Your Tempos
My first orchestral experience came from my participation in the Richmond Symphony Orchestra Within an Orchestra. My school is small and only has a band program, so being able to experience playing with an orchestra was exciting and overwhelming.
My freshman year I auditioned and was accepted for the program, and I was thrilled for the performance. I practiced the music, found my black concert clothes, and showed up fashionably early the day of my rehearsal. I waited for our piece and took my seat among the professionals, readied my music, and looked up to the conductor. BAM! The piece took off with a rush and I was caught off guard! It was so fast! I didn’t expect it to be so quick! I struggled to keep my eyes moving fast enough to follow the music, playing a note here and there, looking with amazement at the professionals firing out notes with ease; how did they do it?!
The following years I was more prepared, learning from my surprise and bracing myself beforehand. I grew interested in participating in the Young Artist competition as well, and found myself on-stage my sophomore year. It was a challenge to memorize the long concertos; in fact, my junior year, I chose a challenging piece with many notes and while I was sitting backstage waiting for my turn to perform, I decided to finger through the opening, which was going fine, and then suddenly I couldn’t remember what one of my notes was! I panicked; normally I never missed that note, but for some reason, while I was fingering through moments before I got on stage, I couldn’t figure it out! I went out on stage and, of course, missed the note, but I just played it softly enough no one could really hear it, and the rest of the performance went decently. But by the time my senior year competition rolled around, I’d gotten experienced enough that I was able to memorize my piece so well that I was functioning from muscle memory, no longer worrying about individual notes.
I’m glad to have had the opportunity to participate in the Richmond Symphony Orchestra programs for students. The exposure to professional orchestras and public performances has been very beneficial and I’ve learned my lessons: prepare beforehand and check my tempos!