The night started out quiet. Well, relatively quiet. As quiet as a trumpet and piccolo practicing in a literal echo chamber could be. The fluttering runs of the piccolo combined with the triumphant impacts of the trumpet created a disorienting atmosphere. Even a music aficionado would have had trouble picking out individual works.
But then the trumpet rang out with a classic piece of musical literature — the kind that any passerby would recognize: the “William Tell Overture.”
The trumpet part — built off of a simple triad — sparks thoughts of charging cavalries and instantly excites anyone who hears it.
And rightfully so. “William Tell” is the story of a brave huntsman who stands up to tyranny. Composer Gioachino Rossini felt that the trumpet was the best instrument to express these feelings of courage and heroism.
Perhaps this unique ability of music to express emotion is why so many are drawn to musicianship, despite the dedication and hard work that is required in order to pursue it.
As musicians trickle in, the orchestra begins to take shape, literally. The once barren room in the Pasadena City College (PCC) C-building begins to resemble the iconic arch of a symphony orchestra.
Chairs — specially designed for musicians — begin to fill the room. Although the chairs look remarkably uncomfortable, they serve a very important purpose: to facilitate the posture required to effectively play an instrument.
The musicians don’t exactly fit the mold of what one would envision a college orchestra to be. Namely because these musicians are from an extremely diverse backgrounds and range in age from college students to retirees.
Director of Orchestras Henry Shin believes that this diversity helps young musicians realize that music can be a lifelong endeavor, regardless of their career goals.
“We have a lot of people playing that are not music majors,” said Shin. “They can see that no matter what you end up doing in your life, [music] can be a part of you.”
Shin said that he is always uplifted by the amount of teamwork he sees during rehearsals.
“No one passes any judgement,” said Shin while describing the orchestra as a community.
And it’s a good thing that there isn’t any judgement. There’s no time for that. Over the course of the three hour rehearsal, the orchestra took only one ten-minute break.
By the end, rather than looking tired and defeated, the musicians were full of energy, still pouring emotion into the music on the pages in front of them.
A good work ethic is essential to a successful musician. But to many, music can seem like a fruitless endeavor. It is often viewed as a hobby — just something to pass the time. But this is dramatically different than the way musicians regard their efforts.
Although each person in the orchestra has different motivations for playing music, there is a common thread: love of the art.
Devin Hayworth, a music education major, plays french horn in the orchestra. Devin started playing music early in his life, as his father was a musician.
“At first it was just kind of a hobby,” said Hayworth. “But as I started playing more and more, I realized it helps people to connect to each other.”
Hayworth said that the ability of music to bring to life inanimate notes on a page is part of the reason he fell in love with music. He feels that music’s ability to connect with people directly relates to what musicians get out of music.
Hayworth isn’t the only PCC student who feels this strongly about his art.
Jacqueline Rasmussen is a piano performance major. She too loves music because of what it means to so many people.
“It’s something that always brings me joy, whether I am in good times or in bad times,” said Rasmussen. “It’s just always there for me.”
Rasmussen acknowledged that music is a lot of work, but she feels that it is entirely worth the effort.
“Music is one of those things where as much work as you put into it and as much heart as you put into it, you directly get out of it,” said Rasmussen.
Clearly, music is extremely important to many musicians. But what may not be so clear is what that means. Shin describes music as essential to his life.
“Music for me defines my life; I can’t live without it. It’s just kind of like the air we breathe,” said Shin. “If I don’t have music, I don’t feel alive.”
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