I've been around music my whole life. My father and mother sang to me at home, and my older brother was an active participant in school bands, community bands, and music festivals. I spent a lot of time listening to music and learning how to behave as an audience member. It was a part of life, no big deal.
But my first experience seeing a professional orchestra changed everything.
When I was about 12, my first private teacher took me to see the Vermont Symphony Orchestra perform live. I don't remember what they played, only that Karen Kevra, a celebrated flute teacher and performer based in Vermont, performed a concerto with the orchestra. This was the reason we were there; my teacher wanted me to hear what a professional flutist sounds like live.
I remember being literally on the edge of my seat. The venue was fairly small, so the wall of sound this orchestra produced just washed me away. I could not believe the range of sounds I was hearing, and how skilled the musicians were. To my young ears, this was a whole new world of experience. This was refuge from the well-intentioned but out-of-tune school ensembles I had been part of up until that point. I had found my tribe.
I pursued my flute study even harder after that concert, armed with the knowledge of how skilled someone can be at their instrument if they really work for it. A few years later, I was good enough to get into the Vermont Youth Orchestra. I had never played in an orchestra before, as my school didn't have a string program. I remember sitting in my chair and listening to all the string players warming up and being overwhelmed at my good fortune (and a little nervous, too).
And when we started playing for the first time, I was stunned.
I felt the sound of the neighboring cello section radiate through the floor and up my legs. Years later, I still remember that feeling. I began to realize what it's like to be a part of the texture, rather than just thinking about my own part, and that any large ensemble must be an organism to perform well. I discovered that there's more than just loud and soft; there are tone colors and nuances that make music interesting and wonderful.
This is why the arts are so important, and why finding your own passion, whether it's the arts or something completely different, is such a gift. That first experience, sitting in a darkened college auditorium and hearing the VSO, set me on fire and set my career path in motion. It gave me something to work toward and to be proud of. It gave me a sense of purpose, which is something that everyone deserves.
So my relationship with music has been like a marriage. We've been together for a long time. Although I love it, not every moment has been great; there have been many times, particularly during the high school-to-college transition, when I wondered if I should have chosen a more standard career path. But for me, the answer was always no. I'm in it for the long haul and happy to be here.