Saturday, October 13, 2007

My Life with the Castro Valley Adult School Chamber Orchestra

The audience sits quietly in anticipation. Then, with the rise and fall of the maestro’s baton, the beautiful sounds of Haydn’s 104th Symphony fill the Castro Valley Center for the Arts.

It’s Sunday, March 18, 2007. I’m the guy standing in the back playing the bass in my first appearance with the Castro Valley Adult School Chamber Orchestra. My family is in the third row listening. It’s a wonderful day.

Flash back to January 2, 2007. I’m nervous as I arrive at the first rehearsal. I’ve never been in an orchestra before, and I’ve only been playing the bass for a couple of years.

The musicians welcome me into the room. Everyone seems nice, so I relax a little. Most of the people are middle aged (like me) or older. Everybody is full of energy and smiles are everywhere. These folks have obviously played together before.

Our conductor arrives, a round, jolly man with short, white hair and a big smile. Josh Cohen is the driving force behind this group, and his hours of planning, preparation, and organization keep this community orchestra alive. I shake hands and say hi.

After some tuning, we start working on the Haydn. Unfortunately, I am not good at sight reading yet so I play only a few notes here and there. I’m feeling more and more nervous, afraid that my omissions will be obvious. Will they tell me to go home? I decide to simply do my best, grit my teeth, and try to stay calm.

When we stop, Josh asks me if everything is OK. I explain that I’m not familiar with the piece yet, and then he says, “OK, just play the notes you can, and next time, play more.” With that welcome reassurance, I go back to my task with a much lighter heart and a strong determination to practice rigorously.

Next, we move on to Bizet’s Carmen Suite. Thanks to an advance look at the music, I dive into Carmen with more competence. I can see that Josh notices that I’m hitting more notes.

Before I know it, the rehearsal is over and people are packing up their instruments. I was worried that my imperfect playing would bother the musicians, but they are thrilled to have a bassist. I’m glad I stayed and happy I signed up for this adventure.

From that day on, I practice my music at home diligently. When I arrive at the next rehearsal, it goes much more smoothly. After the rehearsal, Josh comes up to me and says, “You played a lot more this time. Great job!”

And that’s the way it’s been ever since. We rehearse as a group for two hours every Tuesday night and I practice on my own almost every day at home. I have dozens of new friends and the exciting and enriching experience of making music. And with the Castro Valley Adult School, it costs so little to be part of it.

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