by Martin H, age 13
It’s a big world out there. For many, this is observable especially in music. It permeates the globe, from the furthest reaches of Indonesia, to the lands of China, to Europe, and to the US. From Reggae, to Jazz, to K-Pop and Classical, even to playing the didgeridoo, music comes in all shapes and sizes. Some timeless, some fashionable for a mere decade. As such, it’s hard to choose what suits you best. Especially in a modern world where popular music is dynamically different from what it was fifty years ago, and even more so from another fifty or hundred years earlier than that.
Growing up in an Asian family that highly respected classical music, I was encouraged to listen to this constructive genre and most importantly, play an instrument that had some connection to it. At first, starting at age four, I started out playing the piano under the instruction of my mom. It didn’t work out. I still remember the day I broke down crying at age six because I kept hitting a note wrong, and although it shouldn’t have been so traumatizing, I ended up quitting.
At age seven, after long hours of contemplation, I announced to my mom that I wanted to play the violin. A friend who had a daughter and two sons playing the violin recommended to my mom, who had one or two years of experience playing violin herself, a teacher that taught the Suzuki method. As soon as I picked up the violin, a tiny one-eighth size violin, I knew that it was the perfect instrument for me. I eagerly began playing the violin, advancing to the top of the class. I still play it with the same eagerness and reverence as I did five years ago.
Perhaps the most revolutionizing experience I had in my violin-playing career was BYSO. My previous orchestra experience in fourth grade, an elementary school district orchestra, had been a poor learning and playing environment, as there were people with little experience that played poorly. Needless to say, I did not enroll in this orchestra the following year. After some encouragement from my private lesson teacher, I entered BYSO at late age nine or early ten about halfway through the year of 2011, after a nerve-wracking audition—the first one I’d ever had in my life. I still remember the song I played: Gavotte in G Minor from Suzuki book three.
At the time it was still hosted by the Sammamish High School or something like that. I was still trying to adjust to the full orchestra experience in Cadet Orchestra and as a result did not play especially well, and was extremely nervous and shy. Despite this, Mr. David Drassal, who was conducting the Cadet Orchestra at the time and struck me as…quirky and interesting, taught me and the rest of the orchestra a lot about the basics—keeping time, counting rests, listening to other sections, marking your sheet music, the importance of looking up at the conductor—which greatly improved and laid the foundation for my orchestral playing.
The following year I auditioned and got into Debut Orchestra, which at the time was under the instruction of Ms. Mollie Ewing. Although my orchestral or playing confidence did not improve, my social one did, resulting in a behavioral low due to poorly chosen friends. That was the same year I was placed in the back of the orchestra.
Then Premiere Orchestra rolled around. This time, again, it was Mr. Drassal, who had evidently been promoted, conducting once more. My self-confidence during my first few rehearsals was still quite low, but that was all about to change. Somehow, my seating audition impressed the section coach, and suddenly I was principal second violin, something I had barely even dreamed of. My confidence skyrocketed, as well as my skill, both in playing and orchestral “etiquette” such as looking up at the conductor. To add on top of that, I was promoted to first violin for the last concert.
It didn’t stop there. The next year, which is to say, this year, due to my lack of preparation, I auditioned for and got into Premiere again. I was placed in first violin, and that was when I did my seating audition and was placed in the concertmaster’s seat. My ego swelled and nearly burst. There was nothing quite like the rush of pride, joy, and tinge of nervousness I felt during the concerts when I walked across the stage and bowed in front of the audience and shook the conductor’s hand and played the fine solo at the Christmas concert.
I was encouraged by my parents, my private lesson teacher, and Mr. Drassal to audition halfway through the year to try for Sinfonia. The audition, though it was still like impending doom, was probably the most perfect one I have ever played in my whole life. I was whisked into Sinfonia Orchestra, and the weight of it all made me stagger. I was immediately humbled. Here was a whole different league of advanced-ness. Here was an orchestra. Mr. Barney Blough was a no-nonsense conductor, and the pieces he introduced were beyond what I’d ever done in an orchestra before. That year, which I am still experiencing now, has been a time of learning. Of watching and humbling. Of improvement and teamwork.
BYSO has impacted the rest of my violin-playing life, from private lessons to group lessons to my own little middle school trio of two violins and a cello. Perhaps where my improvement is more prevalent is in my school orchestra. I sit straighter and with better posture. I sight read better. I see my pieces in a more dynamic way. I look at the conductor more and keep time better. I play better than many of the middle schoolers and some of the high schoolers in my six-to-twelfth grade school. I strive to and many times succeed in standing out from my fellow musicians. And perhaps the greatest cause of this all is BYSO, the place where I realized my true potential.