Thursday, June 30, 2011

On playing in the orchestra

Over 25 years ago,  I played my last performance with an orchestra.  My orchestra experience's, like fine wine,  grown more valuable with age. 

I first played in sixth grade.  I choose the string bass because I could rent one for 12 dollars a year.  The was more affordable then rent for a violin or viola.  I was given a music aptitude test in fifth grade; I did not receive an invitation to join the orchestra.  In sixth grade an open invitation was extended for all to join.  

Grade School was a trying time for me.  In about 1st grade,  I stopped communicating with my peers.  I can remember sitting on the basement stairs of the school; feeling lonely and separated. To this day, I cannot step on the grade school grounds without a wave of strong emotions cascading over me.  

I was selected last to play most games.  I never learned to catch or throw a ball.  When I practiced my skills did not improve.  I kept my eye on the ball, but I still dropped it.  I shot a ball at the basket and nearly always missed.   I now understand my inability to catch was related to poor vision in one eye.  I have limited depth perception.  This inhibits my ability to determine how fast an object is coming towards me.

I lived in a self imposed invisible box.  Peer interactions baffled me.  I often found myself saying things at inappropriate times or in inappropriate places.  I missed many subtle clues.  With my peers I was socially impaired.  

I can remember being obsessed with patterns in the floor tiles.  In a 9 pattern square is it 5 blacks with four whites in the middle or is it four whites with 5 blacks on the outside.  If I bumped some part of my body, I need to touch the other side of my body to maintain balance.  I started eating sandwiches in 16 bites, four bits per row, sometimes even alternating the directions of the rows, to this day it remains an obsession with me.  If my body rests on something, I feel a compulsion to count the contacts and insure that they divisible by two.  

I related well with adults; there rules seamed easier to understand.  I felt acceptance in their world.   Part of this acceptance came from the fact I learned to read early and very well.  I was reading biographies in third grade and science fiction in fourth grade. 

I was a member of an orchestra for eight years; five of them were with one conductor.  Six of them were with the same core group of orchestra members.  Consistent social interactions with this group helped me learn to relate to my peers.  At times I ventured forth from my self imposed box. Many members of the orchestra overlooked my inappropriate responses and actions. The orchestra members gave me the courage to look beyond that box.  I felt the freedom to explore and to improve.  I learned the world was a good a safe place.    That I was loved for who I am and what I could accomplish.  These explorations become more frequent and lasted for greater periods of time as I learned to trust my interactions with my peers.  I look back fondly on those years.  These memories balance out the ones from grade school.  I will always cherish their friendships. My friends helped shape me into the man I am today.

Logan High School Symphony Orchestra 1983

By the way, that last concert was played as a member of the Weber State Symphony Orchestra.  I was attending Weber State on a full tuition scholarship.  I earned the scholarship while attending Utah All State Orchestra in my Senior Year at Logan High.  Not bad for a kid who failed his music aptitude test.