The last few weeks have ushed in a flurry of activities and events on campus as we all hunker down for the last weeks of studying. For me, the last few weeks have been filled with concerts, late-night studying, and a visit from my parents! In such a flurry of activity, it has been quite easy to ‘go’ without stopping, and without acknowledging that I’m just a week and a half away from having finished a full year here on the hill. In light of that, I wanted to dedicate this post to highlighting all the things I’ve done in the past weeks that I never would’ve imagined myself doing a year ago:
I went to Clark University last weekend to perform in their arts showcase! It was so fun to pull out some old rep and just have fun performing solo for an audience, and to do a little improv with the dancers beforehand!
I officially finished a YEAR of music theory courses (a major that, a year and a half ago, I had no intention of pursuing).
I worked my first shift as a Kimball captain… (with only a few little messes)
I went to a mini prom (Peter and Prom, a knockoff event of our usual Peter and Paul meetings).
I somehow survived a year of college physics (an impressive feat, trust me).
I said goodbye to my home for the year, Brooks — on to bigger (actually, smaller, but that doesn’t fit the saying) and better dorms!
The end of March has meant a multitude of exams, assignments, performances, and the long-awaited arrival of weather, but for me, and a small group of students here, it also meant the opening of the spring Alternate College Theatre (ACT) production: Ride the Cyclone (RTC). Certainly, tech week rehearsals and the final push before spring break could be described as a cyclone of events and responsibilities — one that we all had to ride, like it or not.
Although hectic, and some might say crazy (free time became more of a theory than a real thing), RTC brought me back to the happy days of nutcracker pit orchestra rehearsals back home. I remember, as we all struggled to learn the 70+ pages of Tchaikovsky, let alone play it well, that our conductor said, “It’ll sound like we won’t pull it together right until the last rehearsal. You’ll be convinced we’re not ready, that it won’t work, right until the last rehearsal. But by that first performance, we’ll be ready.”
Of course, we were ready for our first performance, and it went well. But getting there? It certainly felt like we wouldn’t be. A similar experience happened with RTC — we only started rehearsing with the cast three days before opening night, and yet somehow, everything fell into place.
I think that such an experience as that applies to much more than music. As an easily-stressed perfectionist with a tendency to procrastinate, I’m frequently convinced that things won’t work out, that I won’t be prepared, or that full-on disaster is going to strike. Perhaps, I ought to just take a lesson from the show I’ve watched so many times now: “it’s just a ride.”
These last few weeks have been filled with some lovely memories that I’m excited to share with you on here!
First, to celebrate the arrival of the cold weather, and to take the stress off of our impending finals, the college hosted a winter festival, with mug-making, build-a-bears, and of course, lots of hot cocoa for all! Mine new friend still needs a name, though — if anyone has ideas, let me know!
Second, my mom sent me some Christmas lights to decorate my dorm — it may have turned into a full-blown room remodel session, but I loved the end result!
Third, the hill saw its first snowstorm of the season! Most of it happened while I was in a review session for my calc class, but when I got out, campus had turned into a winter wonderland! Unfortunately, I had gone to that review session in my crocs, and I had to trek back to my dorm, brooks hall, in them and all the snow!
The views walking during that snowstorm were absolutely beautiful — a lovely reminder of why I chose Holy Cross in the first place. The first time I saw Worcester, and more specifically HC, in person was a dreary, cold and cloudy day in March. I was already nervous about moving to New England, but seeing the landscape look like something out of a Bronte novel definitely made me question my choice. It took me until the morning, seeing the hill in the sun (and my dad’s reassurance) to convince me that campus was every bit as beautiful as I had expected. Thinking back on that day, I was silly to worry. Clearly, HC is just as beautiful and the dark and cold as it is in the sun!
The campus has certainly been buzzing with excitement and anticipation as we move into our final week of classes here on the hill. The music department has been as busy as ever, with several concerts last week, and the iconic lessons and carols coming up this week! Personally, I performed in our chamber music recital, and soon will participate in the end of the semester student concert, and lessons and carols with the orchestra, which will take place in Brooks Concert Hall and St. Joseph Chapel respectively.
One of my final assignments for my Montserrat seminar, entitled “The Theology of Making,” is to tell a five-minute Moth-style story about something we made. I chose to tell mine about a decision I made — the decision to study music.
I started taking violin lessons when I was 4 years old, so music had always been a part of my life. However, complaining about music had also always been a part of my life. I typically spent more time figuring out how to get out of going to my lesson that week than actually practicing.
It’s no surprise then, that one day, when I was around 10 years old, before my lesson that week, my mom and I sat in the parking lot of the music store, where we were buying new strings and music. While she scrolled on her phone, I watched as a girl with a cello case — big and colorful, unlike my boring, black cloth violin case — stride into the store.
I thought that her case, and that she had an instrument that was as big as her was the coolest thing ever, and without thinking, I said, “I think playing the cello would be fun.”
The problem was, my mom thought I was serious. She turned and asked me if I wanted to play one. Ever the little schemer, I said “sure, why not?–” I was hoping that we’d go back in the store, waste some time, and maybe even forget about my violin lesson.
With no other planning on my part, suddenly I was back the music shop, trying out cellos. Then were driving to my first lesson. When my new teacher asked me why I wanted to play cello — after all, I had been playing violin for years — I just told them I liked the sound. I figured saying that I didn’t, and that it was all a big misunderstanding was a little too honest.
What happened next occurred so gradually that I didn’t even notice it was happening — like when you see a few snowflakes falling, and then you wake up to half a foot of snow the next morning.
When it came time for audition season that year, my parents encouraged me to try out for orchestras on violin and cello — they figured that I would be placed in a higher orchestra on violin, but that the audition would give me some good practice on cello.
To our surprise, when the audition results came back, I was placed in the same level orchestra on both instruments — I had made the same amount of progress on cello in 2 years that I had made on violin in 6.
That year, I played in orchestra on cello, eventually quitting violin altogether.
Finally, in December 2019, my conductor invited the front chairs of each section in the orchestra to play in a special nutcracker pit orchestra, accompanying the local ballet theatre in their winter production. I hesitantly said yes, and he made me the principal cellist, first chair.
Although covid put orchestra, chamber music, and competitions on pause the next year, I kept recording performances, and practicing — after all, what else could I do?
The next year we did nutcracker was 2021. I was made the principal cellist again, and this time, I couldn’t wait. I had become best friends with my stand partner in orchestra, and we talked every day. I looked forward to our rehearsals every night, watching the music slowly come together. I couldn’t wait to hear the cheering from the audience again, to look up from the orchestra pit at the dancers.
It took until halfway through our last performance to realize that I wouldn’t be coming back. It was my last time with that beloved music, that conductor, and those late-night rehearsals. It was my last time putting a Santa hat on my cello, and sightreading duets with my stand partner during the intermission.
I had promised myself and everyone around me that I would never study music, but in that moment, I knew that I didn’t want that performance to be my last. I knew that despite every vow and promise to the contrary, I had fallen in love with the cello — I had fallen in love with the blisters on my fingers from the strings and the rosin marks on my pants, with the hours of long rehearsals and with the constant critique and struggle to play better.
Much like my coming here, one of the largest sources of joy and meaning in my life came about completely by accident. If that isn’t something to be grateful for this Advent season, I’m not sure what is!