The Chester County Youth Orchestra
When M was not yet five years old, her dad said “Hey Maisy, Daddy loves the cello, what’s your favorite instrument?”
“CELLOOOOO!” She was squealing with delight. Naturally, Chris took that as a sign that she was destined to play his favorite of all string instruments. The routine started with him picking her up at kindergarten, stopping for a snack at Wawa then driving to the home of their acclaimed cello teacher for a double lesson. Chris had his big rented cello and M had a tiny one about the size of a violin.
Now, nearly nine years later, Chris doesn’t take lessons anymore and M can play him under the table.
Like any family, we have our routine fights about not practicing enough. She stomps out, swears she HATES the cello. We are the MOST unfair parents ever! Why we are not willing to let her quit the cello for the electric guitar and purple hair is inexplicable to her. “AAAAAAAGH!: [insert door slam hear]
Note: M is very competitive [insert shocked look here]
A few years ago, the strings instructor at her elementary school told her about the CCYO. This orchestra is composed of kids ages 12-18 and performs regularly and competitively. It has springboarded dozens of kids to major symphonies and conservatories over the years. Admission is by audition. Audition is by invitation.
Last year was the year of her first audition. It was also the year of her first period, her first cell phone, and her first “boyfriend” (shhh M, it’s ok, XX was totally your boyfriend–need I remind you about the “Love” text?”)
So, 12 months ago, when she rolled her cello into that audition having squeaked out no more practice than usual, her dad and I cringed and watched her crash and burn.
The kids trying out for those precious few spots were nothing shy of incredible.
M hung her head low but was not entirely surprised at the rejection. True to Maisy form, she spent the next twelve months killing the practices. Oh there were tears after her private lessons. She swore she was not good enough for ANYTHING. She HATED the cello. She was saving her money for her own electric guitar. “It’s MY money! How can you say no?” [insert slamming door here.]
Wednesday September 11, 2013
The anniversary of this day weighed on my mind as we headed to her audition. She was talking A LOT as she does when she is nervous. Her nerves had led to our arrival a full hour before her audition time. So, she opened her case and took out Chris’ $5000 cello that she had now appropriated (I know, $5000? Seriously?). She was in the room with a couple of violins and a double bass. With a confidence I had never noticed, she began warming up. The sounds of her instrument made the hair on my neck stand up. The assistant conductor coordinating the hundreds of auditions was at the dry erase board. I noticed a split second pause in his busy scribbling as she began to play. My heart soared!
She practiced and warmed up and tuned and fidgeted. She still had 20 minutes to go. But boy did she look great. Just beaming from ear to ear. Until in walked….
This young man was handsome, dressed all in black and just looked like he could rock his instrument. I watched her visibly deflate as he uncased his $10,000 cello and work it like a budding Yo Yo Ma. No music. No squeaking. Eyes closed. Passion pouring.
Chris and I cowered in the corner as she paced the hall–she could not listen to the magic this kid was performing any more. I couldn’t help but loathe his mother with her perfect blond hair, fancy sandals and serious face. I wished I had fixed my make up a little or bothered to defrizz my hair.
Finally, M was called. She looked at us pleadingly. Chris smiled and grabbed her shoulder “You are amazing, honey! You have worked so hard..now just go play it like you have every day for the last year.”
Parents are not allowed in the room.
Blonde Mom flipped a magazine boredly but nodded to the rhythm of her son’s melody.
Chris and I were just as cool and collected. We went out into the hallway where we could hear M playing. We found an old soccer ball we just started kicking around. If anyone saw us, they would naturally think “Huh, look at these two old people looking for a pick up soccer game here in this middle school hallway at 8pm.” They would never think we were craning our necks to pick up every note. When she hit them we would whisper “YES!” When she was flat we would cringe. As her Tarantella peaked, we held our breath. Suddenly the music stopped. Her auditioner had cut her off….before the finale..the best part! I think Chris nearly fell over. This was not a good sign.
When she finally came out we surrounded her with love and poured words of encouragement. She picked over every mistake and slumped her shoulders.
We were told an email would be sent with the results that night or very early the next morning. By 2:30 the next day, when I still hadn’t heard–despite checking my inbox and spam folder every 5 minutes, I sent an email to the conductor.
Dear Mr. B
My daughter Maria auditioned last night for the CCYO (cello)>
I am concerned that I mistyped my email address on the form last night.
I wanted to make sure you had it in case the results of the auditions were ready.
Thank you for your time.
Translation: I know the email you have is right, I know you have an alternate email and two cell phones. I just can’t flippin’ wait one more second.
A few minutes later when his name popped into my inbox, I felt my throat close up.
You will hear officially very soon, But….I wanted to tell you that we look forward to welcoming Maria to Camp Innabah for our first practice on Saturday.
I jumped out of my seat screaming into the kitchen ” MAISY YOU MADE IT —YOU MADE IT— YOU MADE IT!” She just collapsed into my arms and wept with relief. And I was crying again.
We celebrated and planned the long day on Saturday–the camp would go from 12 to 9. She could not wait.
Fate Turns Lousy
The next day (Friday) I was wrapping up with my last patient when my eye caught my father-in-law in the office. “Hey! Whatya doin’ here Grandpa?”
His face was somber. He nodded toward one of Chris’ exam rooms. I walked in to see M sitting in the chair weeping. Chris was holding her left arm as he gingerly felt her elbow. I saw her wince and my heart fell. This was bad.
She had fallen off of her bike a few minutes ago.
Chris’ face said it all.
Thanks to a dear receptionist whose son-in-law is a local orthopedic doc, we were able to bypass the emergency room.
Her radial head was fractured. No cello for three weeks at least.
How in the world do you “glass is half full” that one?