Humble Pie

January 15, 2011

A year ago this weekend I played in my first ever orchestra as a part of the 2010 String Fling hosted at KSU. String Fling is open to all 5th through 9th grade string players in Kansas and attracts 600+ students from around the state. The kids are grouped into orchestras based on grade and rehearse all day Saturday plus an hour Sunday morning, before performing for their family and friends.

My teacher, David, has been organizing this event for years and asked me if I'd like to try it. As I had only been playing for a few weeks when last year's event took place, he put me in one of the 5th grade orchestras. I enjoyed myself enough that I have been looking forward to this year's String Fling.

With almost 14 months of playing experience under my belt, David promoted me to one of the 7th grade ensembles. This may have been a bit too much for me. He's using what I would call a modified Suzuki method to teach me to play. I don't memorize and play solely from listening to the music the way the method was intended. I use the finger numbers and learn the pieces through repetition. Not being able to sight read music made last years participation some what stressful as I had to hurriedly write in finger numbers to be able to keep up with the conductor.

When presented with the music for this year's orchestra I once again was confronted with a need to sight read and no skill at that particular part of music. Much of the day was frustrating for me as I struggled to read my finger numbers and keep track of the rhythm and watch the conductor and try to hear myself over all the other players.

By the end of today's rehearsal I was nearly ready to bow out of tomorrow's rehearsal and performance. I felt very under prepared and the idea of being on stage in that state was not appealing. This evening I re-wrote my fingerings on the music, making so much needed corrections, and I practiced the pieces on my own, which allowed me to hear the melodies. Knowing what the piece sounds like is a huge benefit to me, and I feel much better about tomorrow's event as a result.

I don't know if I'll be able to keep pace with the conductor tomorrow or not, but I'll be there, in the back row, gamely trying.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.