It still amazes me how well I remember the first day of my first orchestra rehearsal. 10 years old, newly initiated Presto member, and first-time experiencer of the Elley Long Music Center. I hardly realized that day that I would be sitting in that hall nearly every week for the next few years. That it would be the start of an era of music and passions and friendships. Instead, I remember pouting at the black notes on the page, refusing to play, watching the clock tick until the hour-long rehearsal ended. Three years later, when I joined Strings, I still felt the same hatred towards my violin, towards the VYOA for subjecting me to hours of something I never understood.
It was during my freshman year in Sinfonia that I began to love music. It started with Beethoven. I still recall the first note of the first movement of Beethoven’s first symphony, only because my conductor at the time had mentioned it over and over and over again until we realized its significance. But as a 15-year old with a frustration toward her instrument, something about the note resonated with me. It was like the first word of a long novel, a classic that has passed itself down generations upon generations. It held, on its own, the weight of the beginning of its composer’s legacy. It was where Beethoven started, and that meant something to me.
But it was the following year that represented everything the VYOA has meant to me in my life thus far. As a member of the Vermont Youth Philharmonia, I became a part of an undoubtedly tight-knit community that still makes me nostalgic to this day. The music and the people I experienced shaped that year for me, and, though I don’t mean to sound like your typical teenager “searching for her identity”, it felt like a place that I just belonged to.
For me, one of the most satisfying moments of being a violinist is the last note of an epic piece, a feeling I first experienced at the end of O Fortuna, the first movement of the famous Carmina Burana, which I played with the VYP. In that single moment, the entire hall had stopped, as the last note reverberated through the artsy walls of the Flynn Theatre. You could just sense the tension and the intensity that nearly every person felt at that moment. And that’s what drove me as a violinist—that feeling, that moment. And with that came everything else, from the insanely talented people around me whom I both envied and intensely admired, to the sense of home away from home I felt at Elley Long.
My past two years with the VYO have meant something else—partially dream-like, partially a hassle, but all around worthwhile. I used to glance at the VYO musicians during their rehearsals and just dream of the day I would sit on that stage, a part of something beyond my own, individual musicianship. And at the time, it felt like it would never happen, butit did. Having said that, though, with junior and senior year taking a hold of my life, I put VYO in the backseat a little. That’s not to say that I didn’t love it or that it didn’t impact me. At each concert, I still felt that moment of utter amazement, of goosebumps. Pieces like Elgar’s Nimrod Variations made me feel like I could stay on that stage and just bask in the silence. I loved it, and I still do.
This past weekend, I played in my last concert as a VYOA violinist. It was, without a doubt, bittersweet, as well as symbolic. My dedication to the VYOA started with Beethoven’s first and ended with his ninth. And while I had spent quite a few years detesting his ninth symphony, it meant something else to me on Sunday night. The end of an era, of a childhood. I suppose some of these sentiments come from just the general feeling I have right now of leaving. But even more than that, VYOA is a special aspect of my life. I blossomed and changed throughout my years with the organization. I created relationships that I seldom acknowledged, but grew accustomed to. I became overly familiar and in love with the Elley Long Music Center, to the point that it even inspired several of my poems and essays as a writer. And leaving all that is beyond what I can imagine right now. I don’t know when I’ll ever play in an orchestra again, or ever experience the thrill of the silence at the end of an epic piece, but what I know is that VYO will last with me. I know I sound cheesy when I say that, but I mean it. I think I can say that VYOA has been one of the most enduring and influential aspects of my life, and leaving that is definitely difficult.
But I will always, always remember it for introducing me to something I love. And I will always be thankful for it, no matter how many times I woke up on Sunday mornings dreading the forthcoming four-hour rehearsal.