by Maddy S., Teen Blogger from Northeast.
I have been preparing for this moment for months. Countless hours practicing; a thousand mistakes corrected; breaths and fingerings; rests and downbeats; they chisel this performance to perfection. Like a sculpture, all smooth curves and sharp angles. My foot taps the dusty floor to a rhythm only I can hear. The rest of the orchestra stands behind the curtain with me. We hold out instruments with tapping fingers, waiting for our turn to perform. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. This is agonizing.
The lights on the stage are extremely bright. They come from all direction, making odd shadows by my feet and chair legs. The sound of rustling pages, squeaking chair legs, coughing, adjusting, is everywhere. Lights shift, and now I can’t see the audience. This feels like an interrogation. Everything is silent, waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. This is agonizing.
Our conductor saunters onstage to a meager smattering of applause. It is hot in this auditorium and no one is that excited for their son or daughter’s middle school end-of-year performance. Sadly, we in the band know this. My shirt is too tight and did I mention it’s really hot and now my hair is coming loose from its ponytail and we are all just waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. This is agonizing.
The conductor turns to us, in an exaggerated way that is the cue to lift our instruments up. We do so. I imagine it looks like a wave from the audience, with a few ripples from the people who aren’t paying attention. They get elbow-nudges from stand partners. The baton hovers in the air. A few prep beats. Breathe, and—everything lifts away.
All I can hear is music. All I can feel is my instrument–we move together, weaving a story in a universal language. There is no before and there is no after. I do not have anything to think about except now and this music, this story, this sound.
I know the people around me; we have gone to the same school for a long time now. Some I have known since elementary school. We are classmates, friends, supporters, allies, confidants…but that feeling of unity is more intense now. It feels like we are hearing the music for the first time again, because it is also the last. We are hearing all the parts as one because it will never be so again. After this, we are all going to different high schools. We will lead our separate lives, play out different stories. But for now, in this moment, we are all playing the same story. We know it by heart.
And it is incredible.
Bouncing, moaning, flitting, pounding, tip-toeing, screaming, whispering…this is music. Not notes, rhythms, not even practicing. Music is how you play it. How you feel it in the soles of your feet and your neighbor’s too. Music is an emotion.
We receive a standing ovation at the end.
And then it’s over.