I have been playing the violin since I was in 5th grade, when the chance to play an instrument was first introduced to me. I started out in elementary school as being one of only two male violins. Right away I excelled in my orchestra, instantly taking 1st chair of the 1st violins and playing solos in 5th grade concerts (though they were not difficult and didn't sound that great, it was big to play solos as a beginner). In 6th grade, much of my orchestra went off to become players in the new band, which was just now being offered to only 6th graders in the elementary schools. I was still with one other male violinist in that orchestra, but due to the large popularity of band half of my orchestra was now gone.
I progressed into middle school to become part of a greater, more structured orchestra. This was something new to me and it took me a year just to gain a place in the first violin section. My 7th grade orchestra was a fun time and that's when I found that I really liked to play the violin. That's when the classical bug hit. My 8th grade year I was placed for good in the 1st violin section and planned to make my presence known. It was at this time that I bought my first violin, the 1880 Hopf. I found it when I went to the middle school band and orchestra instrument show where different music companies come to sell or rent instruments. I had asked previously if one company could find me a nice old used instrument in good condition and to include a wooden bow with it. I picked it up for the first time at the show and looked at it; a semi-glossed violin with shorter tuning pegs, a smaller body, and a dark golden-brown finish. From the start I loved that instrument and knew I'd have a lot of fun in orchestra playing it. I didn't really make my presence all that known in 8th grade orchestra other than that I was the class clown of sorts. When skill failed, humor prevailed.
I finally took the big step to high school. I decided to go to Champlin Park High School instead of Anoka High School (which I should have gone to) because it was newer and would be a good experience for me. Champlin Park had only one orchestra that year due to a lack of intrest in previous generations. My class was the first big influx of string students there had been in a while. Since there was only one orchestra, we didn't play stuff that was too over our heads. I had some problems with my playing for some odd reason that year and was stuck playing in the 2nd violin section, and not very far up either. I think it was because of the change, which I normally don't like. Probably the hardest piece we played was "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" by Mozart. At the end of the year were try-outs to see who would be in the Concert group and who would be in the new Varsity group (concert the highest and varsity the lowest). I opted not to try out because I didn't think I was good enough and because if I did make it I didn't want to end up being the very last chair of violins. It ended up that my standpartner was the lowest person to get in, so I would have been last chair. So I went without testing and regretted it later that summer.
The summer before my sophmore year is when I first started taking private lessons. I did this part because my conducter/teacher endorsed them and partly because I thought they'd help me out of my slump. I got one great instructor. Young, energetic, something new that helped me get motivated. She helped me outfit my violin with new strings that made my already beautiful-sounding instrument even better. That is one of the greatest things I credit her for. I worked hard all summer taking an hour lesson per week. The beginning of my sophmore year, I was feeling confident about my ability once again. I was in the Varsity Orchestra which was made up mostly of incoming freshman with some sophmores and one junior mixed in. We started playing on the second day of school (as was with every year of orchestra) pieces that were not all that difficult for me. I found that playing was easier for me. The custom for most orchestras is to have the players play out loud in front of the group for testing. I had previously had problems with this but now played with ease for the class. I took the concertmaster position in that orchestra full time, and that's where I got my nickname "The Concertmaster" from. We played many interesting yet not all that challenging pieces, for me anyways. It was disappointing that my orchestra could not go to the Twin Cities Suburban contest that year, I would have liked to see how we fared. That year I did test, with some urging from my instructor and my conductor, for the Concert Orchestra. I made it this time and right into the first violin section.
My junior year was a great year for my orchestra career. I went in strong, playing well everywhere I could. Since I no longer had private instruction outside of school my playing started to ebb. I did pick it up when I started to work on the Mendelssohn concerto (found on the page about my classical interests). While part of the 1996-97 Concert Orchestra our group did magnificently. At a local contest for strings, bands, and choirs, out orchestra fared well against tough critics. Our biggest accomplishment was probably the wonderful perfromance at a regional contest in which our orchestra scored three superior ratings, the highest score attainable. Our orchestra also went on a trip to Boston and New York (look here for current info about the orchestra). That was my greatest year yet as a member of the orchestra.
My senior year was great. I started to take lessons at the MacPhail Center for the Arts, a prestigious music center. My final year in orchestra included some great performances with pieces such as Haydn's "London" symphony, Copland's "Rodeo", "Romeo and Juliet" by Prokofiev, Holst's "St. Paul" Suite, and a medley of songs from "Phantom of the Opera." It was really too bad that most of our orchestra was Class of 1998 and it will be a tough year to follow up our act, but I'm glad I was part of it. We did very well with all we played, and I think I grew a little more as a musician. I performed the most passionate duet I have ever attempted, though the music was not at all like that.
Now at UND for my first year I have succeeded in taking private lessons to keep up my proficiency. I am also a member of the Greater Grand Forks Youth Symphony as a first violin. I will be playing with them until May when the school year ends for me and I will be too old to play for them anymore. It was loads of fun for the time. The two concerts the orchestra performed were March 5th and April 25th. The March concert was played at the Chester Fritz Auditorium on the UND campus and the April concert was performed at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks, North Dakota. I also practice at least once a day at the fine arts center on the UND campus to make sure I don't slide now that I'm not playing with an orchestra from day to day. In the future I hope to be part of the Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra.
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