Today, for the first time in a long while, I had a music rehearsal. The thing about music rehearsals is that it is often quite different from belting out songs in the shower or in the car. If you asked me to sing a “G”…..I have absolutely no idea what that note would sound like. I can make inferences about music, but I can’t read sheet music. All that I know about reading music I learned in Orchestra. As a viola. Playing the viola and singing isn’t exactly the same thing. Really, only the rhythm and music notations (like crescendo, fortissimo, staccato, etc.) apply to both. Also nobody sings in alto cleft. Barely anyone even plays an instrument in it. The violas stand alone.
Playing the viola was one of my all-time favorite experiences. I loved being a part of the Orchestra. I loved learning the background music to some epic soundtracks (Star Trek, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Apollo 13…). I loved the friends I made. I loved the trips to Hershey Park, Virginia Beach, and Disney World. I loved the feeling of finally getting a difficult section and the high of flying through the notes. I loved seeing a fully marked up sheet with notes, fingerings, and circled measures. I loved being part of the smallest section of the Orchestra and sometimes getting singled out because of it. I loved watching myself improve over the years. By senior year, I was a leader in my section. No, I never made the elite group. No, I never became first chair in my class. No, I never pursued music. But I loved being a viola.
Today, as I was trying to follow the music rehearsal, I started getting massive Orchestra flashbacks. I was remembering rhythms for the first time in ages. I was remembering fingerings (well, they weren’t accurate because the clef was wrong, but whatever). I was remembering being the confusing middle part. I was remembering being the quiet one who knew her shit but always got overlooked or ignored. Orchestra wasn’t always a fun class for me. My freshman year ended with many days of frustration, anger, hurt, disappointment, and ego trips. My teacher took special notice of me and loved to point out my flaws in front of everyone. I appreciate it so much in hindsight. At the time? Not so much. My Sophomore Year my teacher never gave me any credit when I did things correctly because I was too quiet to stick out. It drove me nuts when I knew something better than my fellow violas and it was ignored, and then later they would get all the praise and acclamation. My Junior Year I was placed near the back in my own stand to be out of everyone’s way. I didn’t even get first stand my senior year, because I missed a class and someone else took the chair. I was moved back to placate the obnoxious freshman kid because my quietness slowed him down a little. It was all immensely frustrating. Especially at the time.
But, at the same time, there were always good parts. I got along well with my fellow violas, I had some great friends in the violin section, and I loved concerts/competitions/trips. I even managed to earn my teacher’s good opinion by my senior year. Looking back at High School, he was my favorite teacher without a doubt. Even if I hated him for the longest time and he was the source of a good portion of my High School ego trips.
At heart, I will always be a Viola. Everyone played violin. A good amount of kids played cello and bass. But being a viola was special. We were the quiet ones. The ones who usually just supported either the cello part or the violin two part. The ones who got made fun of the most (the amount of viola jokes out there is absolutely ridiculous). The ones who had to explain their instrument to non-musicians the most. No one fucking knows we exist. Being a viola is in my blood. It was in my blood before I even picked up the instrument and it is in my blood now. Despite the fact that I have not picked it up since High School. Screw Myers-Briggs, Star Signs, or Hogwarts Houses. Being a viola is who I am.