Classical Music

Tonight the Cornell Chamber Orchestra had it’s last concert for the semester. It was quite awesome and gratifying, not in the sense that we had a flawless performance (we certainly didn’t), but because it felt like we were enjoying every moment of it and making music for the right reason.

The last rehearsal before concert day, our conductor tried an “exercise.” He told us to start playing notes in the key of E major and to respond and contribute as we felt. Basically, he asked us to improvise. Only a few people played, while most of us (myself included)  just sat around looking sheepish maybe because we felt too self conscious or something. Our conductor told us he was surprised that so few people played, and that everyone played only when he said “Okay now everyone has to play.” The point of the exercise was to remind us what music is really about; it’s about adding each individual’s feeling and talent and emotion to form a whole, making our own contributions when we can. It’s not about everyone playing the right notes at the right time at the right dynamic, which is what classical string players tend to focus on the most. Unfortunately, for the past few years I’ve spent at Cornell, I played and practiced cello with that incorrect focus of playing everything “correctly.” And as a result, it was never as satisfying and fulfilling as I remembered in high school and as it was tonight.

And so, our orchestra conductor has successfully reminded me of why I still bother playing my instrument. I still play because of that one time after high school orchestra rehearsal a friend came up to me and said, “Listening to your solo during rehearsal has inspired me to practice more.” I still play because of the people who come up to me after a concert and tell me, “I felt so relaxed listening to all of you play music together,” and “Thank you.”

After our feeble attempt at improvisation during rehearsal on Thursday, our conductor encouraged us not to worry about playing things “right” anymore. “No one leaves a concert and says, ‘Wow, that was so correct.’ People come to be moved and inspired; that’s why they come.” That’s why I still play and will continue to play.

To all who came to the concert, thanks so much. On behalf of everyone in chamber orchestra, we really appreciate you making time out of your busy schedules. And thank you God, for introducing classical music and the cello into my life.