Monday, October 11, 2010

The Importance of the Dvorak Cello Concerto and Lessons Learned

One of the two high school teachers I learned the most about life from was Gary Wolfman, my orchestra conductor. Every spring the final concert featured senior symphony musicians, choir singers, and composers at the chapel of Lawrence University. With stars in my eyes I auditioned with a cello concerto, not just any cello concerto, but the Dvorak cello concerto. You have to understand that my stand partner was an amazing talent and is now a professional cellist, but at that time, in my opinion, he lacked the passion for the music that I exuded. Of course he auditioned and won a spot and played a beautiful (if someone stiff) version of the Saint-Saens cello concerto number 2. I did not get a soloist spot and I was crushed. I cried when the list of soloists was posted and it was lacking my name. The next day, Mr. Wolfman said to me, "I've been thinking about your response and I think this is a realization for you that you're not as good as you think you are." WHAM! I admit that I had not experienced a lot of rejection in my life up to that point, but the lesson I learned is that life isn't fair, and sometimes we're all not as good as we think we are, and that’s ok. No matter how much spirit I felt, how much I believed in myself, how much passion I exuded, sometimes life smacks you in the forehead. It was delivered to me by someone I very much respected and wanted to make proud, and by eventually accepting my lesson with grace, I think I did.
The senior concert came and went and during the Saint-Saens, I sat first chair of the cello section, the highest rung I would musically reach. There are still times, though, when I put in my earbuds and the Dvorak cello concerto comes up on my playlist. Every time, it immediately brings me back to the Lawrence University Chapel on that May day in 1989, only this time, I’m the soloist. After my chair and music stand are arranged on stage, I walk in from stage right, weaving my way through the first and second violin sections, in a gorgeous full-skirted gown. I sit down, settle my cello in, tighten my bow, adjust my music stand, and when I look to the conductor’s podium to indicate that I’m ready to go, standing there is Gary Wolfman.

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