Mandy's Moments - July 5, 2016

I'm using the restroom at the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center before Detroit Public Theatre's Production of Sex with Strangers on Saturday night and Schubert's Unfinished Symphony No 8 in B minor was playing while I was peeing.  I was instantly transported to my 14 year old self.

   It was my second year at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp and much to my friends' dismay, I did not just ask to be in the Red Band as we had previously planned.  My desire to see where I stacked up outweighed my desire to hang-out with them and goof off for 2 weeks in a band that wouldn't challenge any of us musically.

   Much to my surprise I was named 4th chair percussionist for the orchestras.  The wind and percussion sections had to play for both orchestras, Symphony and Concert, which meant double the music, double the rehearsals, and no free time.  By Tuesday I had begun to regret my decision of trying my best at the audition and not asking to be in The Red Band.  I only saw my friends from the previous year at meals, and even then it was from across the room.  I didn't know the other kids in my section because they were all older than me and had all been in the orchestra the year before.  Well, all except our section leader, who was a French foreign exchange student.  He was very talented, but just a complete jerk.

   When Thursday rolled around I had only been at camp for four days and I was hitting bottom.  My bunk mate, Red Band Member, and friend from home, Becky, would talk about which boy she made out with in the woods each night as I tried to calm my nerves.  You see, there was a mouse in our cabin that I had convinced myself was going to attack me as I slept and eat my eyeballs.  Needless to say I think my jealousy of Becky and her down time spent with our pals was just magnified by my sleep deprivation and the fact that my days were spent with Frenchie.  He would constantly tell me what a horrible percussionist I was and how he felt all Americans, in general, are just talentless hacks.

   Managing not to take my frustration out on Becky, I trudged down the path to rehearsal Friday morning. I was exhausted from another night spent waking up, panic striken, every time I heard the rustle of my rodent nemesis and as I stepped into the rehearsal shell I had no idea how I was going to make it through another ten days.  I had made no new friends, I was so overwhelmed by the amount of sheet music in my folder, and my body ached from playing so much that when I saw another piece of music sitting on the timpani with my name on it I just shook my head.

   It was Schubert's Unfinished Symphony No 8 in B minor.  There is only one percussion part in the piece and it was assigned to me.  Frenchie was outraged, but I walked over to the timpani and tuned them as best as my American abilities would allow.  The conductor soon tapped her baton and we were off.

   The piece starts with the bass and cellos by themselves for 8 bars.  It's dark and eerie, I started to perk up thinking, "this is cool."  The second phrase introduces the violins and violas and it hit me, "I am in an orchestra."  When the clarinets and oboes started to play the melody I felt something in my chest shift.  My soul, my heart chakra, I don't know, but something inside of me was waking up and I could feel the music in my chest and it was wonderful.

   I cried every time we played that piece.  I still cry whenever I hear it.  In fact, I found myself having a Tom Hanks from 'Philidelphia' moment on the toilet, tears streaming down my face and all, ten minutes before curtain on Saturday night.  (Man that is such a great scene.  Tom Hanks as Andy Beckett, Denzel Washington as Joe Miller, "La mamma morte" from Umberto Giordano's opera, 'Andrea Chenier'.  OK, so what happened in my bathroom stall was not that intense, but the feels and the memories did take me over for a bit.)

   As I flushed and washed my hands I remembered how much it had meant to me to have played music that professional musicians all over the world had played.  Not the arranged for band crap that I was used to playing in school.  And that it was only possible because I was part of those orchestras.  Perhaps it seems like a jump, but I began to miss my pals from RUR.  We had such a great group of people.

   However, when I finally sat down in the theatre and opened my program I saw an advertisement for the next show I was doing.  It was a three header in which I talked and talked and talked.  Our first read through was in two weeks and I was only off book for 9 scenes.  I realized that just like when I was a kid, I had been feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how I was going to be ready by the read through.  But seeing that ad, so unexpectedly, cracked open that space in my chest and I felt warm and excited.  Hearing some audience members sitting behind me talking about wanting to see the show amplified that feeling even more.  But I want the rest of my orchestra.  Even though it's necessary to do the work I need to do at home, it's more fulfilling to create as part of an ensemble.  I guess that want comes from playing music when I was younger.  Even solos were made better with an accompanist.

  But then again, I'm grateful for the 2 weeks I had left to stuff those lines in my brain.

Until Next Time-


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