Thursday, October 29, 2020

A Letter to My Orchestra Students

As we are winding down the month of October, in the midst of a pandemic and hybrid teaching and learning, I am compelled, this morning, to write a letter to my students. I certainly hope that they have a sense of how much I miss regular orchestra rehearsals and our music department environment. Hopefully, this letter will say a little bit of what I am feeling today.

Dear Orchestra Students, 

Hey folks. I wanted to drop you a note today just to get a few things off of my chest. Rehearsals are so fast and feel so distant as a result of masks, zoom, some folks in the room and others across the state of North Carolina and a general environment that is strange and different. This feels like the best forum to say a few words as we are closing in on the end of our first semester.

First, I know I probably don't have to say this, but I am sorry. I am sorry that we all find ourselves in this situation. I am sorry that I can't provide a more authentic orchestra experience for each of you. You seniors deserve better. There are so many strong leaders in the room and you deserve a real senior year orchestra experience. You juniors deserve better, too. You came to NCSSM with an expectation of a high-level orchestra experience and in many ways I just feel that I can't provide that. I know it's not my fault, but I want you to know that I am sorry.

I truly wish that we could play the great orchestral repertoire that I try to program every year. We are so handcuffed by the hybrid environment. I wish that each of you could feel the amazing wave of sound that washes over each of us during rehearsals and performances. I wish that you could get chills down the back of your neck as we make a great release or an amazing crescendo together. I wish that we could share smiles without masks in between our faces. I wish that you could have the experience of interacting with me and each other as thinking, caring, feeling musicians. And, I wish that we could share our common love for music, the arts, and expression together in an orchestra, the way we are used to doing.

I wish each of these things, but I am also aware that they probably aren't coming back this year. We are in a pattern that probably isn't going to change in the next few months and that makes me sad.

So, even though I am so sorry about these things. I want to be sure that you know what I am trying to do as part of the orchestra and our class each day. I want you to know that I will not give up. I want you to know that there are very clear goals for me and for us as an ensemble. I am truly trying to provide orchestral playing concepts and help you galvanize beliefs about string technique, orchestral playing, and the ensemble environment. I am truly trying to help you expand your knowledge of strings, repertoire, and orchestral playing. I am truly trying to keep class fun, informative, and interactive. I am trying to individualize and provide more advanced experiences for some and more rudimentary experiences for others.  I really don't want to stress you out. I really don't want to give you too much to do. I simply want to keep music as part of your life on a daily basis. I want to keep the beauty of orchestral music and the inspiration of playing your instrument as part of a large ensemble part of your experience at NCSSM. 

So, in short, please hang in there with me. It is my goal that we keep your hands on an instrument throughout your time at NCSSM. I truly hope that Orchestra provides you with a little break in the otherwise crazy busy schedule of NCSSM.  I truly hope that you find your friends and community in and around the orchestra. I truly hope that you find my smile and positive attitude to be an outpost in the midst of an otherwise uncertain and unstable world in which we live.

Please know how very much I care for each and every one of you. I care about your musical development. I care about your personal happiness. And I truly care about your time at NCSSM. 

I certainly know that creating virtual ensembles is not the same as a true orchestral experience. But, you are doing a great job with it. I am so pleased with your attitude and your commitment to the cause. Let's finish this semester strong. And we will continue to do all we can to lead and express through the arts and orchestra at NCSSM for the rest of this school year.


S Laird