A Symphonic Existence

Ethan - Lafayette, California
Entered on January 28, 2009
Age Group: Under 18

One morning in May as we, the Campolindo Orchestra, stood on stage and Harvey Benstein, our director, stepped down from the podium, arm outstretched, we sensed that we had done what we needed to do—we pooled whatever we could give into that performance, knowing that that was both the least and the most that anyone could expect of us that day. And later, when we found out that we had received a perfect score from one of the judges, we cheered and embraced, for we all had something to be proud of, together. I had been almost everywhere with that group of about 75. That March, we had received word that potential budget cuts would signal the end of the music directors’ positions, and indeed later that month, we had appeared in force along with hundreds of other dedicated supporters of our programs to protest these actions at a school board meeting.

In the following months, our music became our message and we made our May concert our final statement on the subject. It worked. We learned that the layoff notices had been rescinded by the school district, but we also learned something more: through music comes unity. Ask any orchestra member what they feel about unity in our organization and they will tell you that it is truly a product of the intimate nature of our art—this music by its very nature requires an unprecedented level of sensitivity and communication between the members of the group; it is as if in the end, we are all mere parts of the body that is the orchestra, and only through our interconnectedness can this body be as one. Our concertmaster once said in an impassioned, impromptu appeal to the orchestra about dedication in the weeks leading up to a concert that “We’re not here to get a girl.” Although his point was that we should focus on the music rather than socializing, the irony of this statement became immediately apparent: being in an orchestra demands many of the same characteristics which being in a fairly intimate relationship does—care, understanding, and most of all, unity. The oft-used “soul mate” is an extraordinary approximation of what members of an orchestra actually do share with one another through their instruments; indeed in the very roots of the word “symphony” are implications of the requisite sameness and unified sound with which such a work must be executed.

At times the going gets rough; tension mounts, other commitments may surface, perhaps we lose sight of what the music truly means to us, but in the end, it is time and time again about the music; we remember the task we are charged with, and I ever renew my belief in this: that through musicmaking comes real unity.