As a child my mother taught me to play the piano. She was consistent and I improved, but I had no outlet to play with other people and so was very shy and insecure about it. When I left after High School, I left the piano playing behind. When I joined CJ 4 years later, music making was nowhere in my mind. Then the leaders wanted a church choir and conscripted two members to teach us to sing. They made a valient effort, but I realized after a couple of years that singing is not my forte.
An orchestra started up. I had played violin for 1/2 year in middle school so I joined up. It was fun for a while, but we did not get regular lessons and I eventually got exasperated at never being able to play in tune.
The next musical step was in order to celebrate one of the founders’ 60th birthday. The members pulled together a rag tag marching band by pulling old instruments out of attics. The founders were so thrilled by this that they decided to continue the marching band in local 4th of July parades, etc. Watching them march stirred someting in me and I asked to join. At first I played in both Orchestra and Band, but eventaully switched over completely to Band. For 20 years I played in the Marching and Concert Band in the percussion secton, playing every variety of instrument that section has. Life in the Band was eventaully a horror that will deserve its own post another time.
Then one year the Band/Orchestra leader was heading up a production of Pilgrim’s Progress, with orchestra, dance and acting. It was a BIG deal. They were offering openings for anyone in CJ to be a part of it. I did not want to sing in the chorus so I asked if I could try playing the violin with the orchestra. I never got a reply, but one day I came home to find the score on the dining room table. I went to the music office and borrowed a violin and started practicing. I received no lessons, no personal contact, no encouragement. I was SO on my own. I went to rehersals, sat at the back and tried to play along. It was both excruciating and thrilling. I stuck with it. I played quietly enough so no one could hear my wrong notes, not even me. I loved it.
Over the years I did improve and could hold my own with all the others. We went through music retreats that were like boot camps, tearing us down, telling us how horible we were. You can accept a lot of that, because you figure they could hear how you played better than you could yourself, but when they would scream at us for our feelings and attitudes, that I resisted inwardly. I cared a lot about orchestra, and when they would say we didn’t care at all, I knew that was not true. I became section leader, and worked with a young man who had a lot of talent and gave lessons to the strings. We worked hard to help the players relax and improve and to love the process. Our efforts were to no avail for the Orchestra leader finally told us he was dis-banding the orchestra because we stank and no one cared like he did about making good music. We were told that no one was allowed to play on their own. Everyone was to put their instruments away and not play again. We were all devastated. Then 12 of got letters from the Community’s spiritual leader that us chosen few had shown a good attitude and could continue to play together as a string group. We were to enjoy ourselves and the process. (Stroke our egos, make us think we had a future in music – which was to prove to be a lie).
The group was horrible. Our playing wasn’t that bad, but there were a few who insisted on making it into a “light group” where they would complain and tear each other down. One time in particular I remember I was yelled at by one young SGA that she hated playing with me, I had a bad attitude, and always played out of tune. (She hit many wrong notes also) After vehemently letting this tirade loose on me, I was shocked and looked around the group at the other older members. I asked them to help me out here, that I did not understand why she was saying all this. What did they think? They all looked elsewhere and no one spoke up. The young lady castigating me was the grand-daughter of the current leader. No one wanted to take the chance of being ratted on to the leader and of getting into serious trouble. I was hung out to dry. After that I dreaded going to the group. I only hung in there because I loved music and it was my only outlet.
Those of you who have gone through these kinds of sessions will understand what my few words cannot convey. Those who have not will think “So what?”. Maybe some day I will be able to put into a dialogue and description just how devastating these light sessions were. It wasn’t just the words, but the emotions of being torn apart and devasted that always accompanied them.
We never were allowed to play again in public or in church. They started a youth orchestra and chose them to play. We were still side-lined at the time that I left.