The World is a Symphony By Sarah, Westminister, Colorado
I believe in the symphony orchestra. I believe in the diversity of the world that makes up an effective and pleasing whole. I believe that a world in which every person has an individual quality and something to contribute.
I play clarinet in a youth orchestra, and it is through the experiences I have had here that I have come to truly appreciate diversity. There are strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion; within those four branches there are many individual instruments that sound alike in some ways and different in others. Even within the different instruments there are variations – within the violins there are second chairs and first chairs; there is first french horn, second horn, third horn, and fourth horn. Among the clarinets, there is first chair, second, bass clarinet, and e-flat clarinet. Just like in the outside world, there is a large variety of voices and purposes that form a cohesive whole. Although the first chair instruments tend to have more solo parts and
melody, and the other parts are given more harmony, all parts are important to the overall sound. An orchestra – or any type of musical group for that matter – depends on the pleasing combination of melody and harmony. I most commonly play the second chair part. The notes I play are not always the most noticeable – perhaps the strings or an oboe or flute or the first clarinet have the main melody, or perhaps I play the melody but at different pitches than the first chair. Yet the conductor has told me before to play more loudly – “I want to hear some more of that lovely second chair melody,” she’ll say. I love being given first chair parts now and then, and even just second chair parts that have the main melody. Yet I find myself also discovering a deep appreciation for the way my harmonies meld into and twine themselves through the music.
My conductor once said that parts are alternated so that the musicians can learn how to play important parts and solos, as well as how to fade into the background and meld with the rest of our instrumental section when necessary. I believe that this is an important skill for people to learn not only in the world of music, but also real life interactions.
I believe that the symphony orchestra is an excellent model of the real world. It demonstrates the importance of cooperation and individual
Overcoming Stereotypes By Trisha, Wichita, Kansas
I am black. To some people, the term “black” could refer to their current state of being, or a description of their overall personality. I refer, however, to the terminology used by many people to label African
Americans. Do I enjoy it? Absolutely not.
Following my birth, I seemed to automatically fall into my typecast role. My family talked and acted a certain way, and I soon learned to fit in. I noticed around the third grade that I did not possess the same physical traits as everyone else, such as color—most likely because of the fact that I participated in the “gifted” program, and because no other black person entered the program for years.
Being the only black girl in the program, all the other black girls, and most of the black guys, made fun of me. As a result, I defensively shut myself up from the ridiculing and everyone else as a quiet bully. I did not pick on anyone, but if someone came to me for trouble, they most certainly got it, mostly with my fists.
After a time, I wanted to make friends, but did not know how, and thought that quitting the program would somehow enable me to maneuver myself into the black crowd. My dad strongly encouraged me to stay in the program, and I did, but wondered: “Why does he fervently want me to stay?”. After some searching, I found the answer to my question.
Born in the 50s, my dad remembered a time where racial tension reached its peak, with newly installed integration laws. At that time, blacks worked incredibly hard to receive a decent education, and even then, whites still frowned upon them, and never thought the blacks could ever amount to anything. Such a stereotype lingered for generations. My father wants me to surpass the low standards set for blacks. I believe in overcoming
New standards are not easy to set, though, when I look around and see so many underachieving blacks flunking out of school, having illegitimate babies, getting into fights, and even dressing and talking poorly. It sickens me to see the current condition of my race, and to realize what we stand for to the rest of the country.
By Keith, Atlanta, Georgia
I would like to tell you that I was a healthy, talented and ‘straight A’ student for my entire academic career. Instead, I was the chubby kid sitting by himself in the cafeteria, with mediocre grades, and low self esteem. In middle school I had loads of personal problems, which stemmed from being overweight. Often I found myself trying to cover my problems over. For instance, I never changed in front of anyone in the locker room. Going
swimming in trunks was out, period! I slouched over when I walked and can you imagine a six foot tall, two hundred and twenty pound Lollipop Kid in the “Wizard of Oz”? I had earned my right to the role, but the school play
director could not appreciate my size. I was the only kid who threw the discus wearing a winter coat in May. It was hot, and people questioned my sanity, but I thought I had my girth “incognito.”
Our phys ed teachers made us run a weekly mile, and I was the next to the slowest kid. One day the slowest kid did not show up for class. He had left the school. I was mortified, because I knew that when he was gone, I would be the slowest. I had one of two choices; skip the class, or run and be last. I chose to run, and I was last.
I kept the last place title for a while, but things had to change. In spite of the frustration, my heart told me I could do more, so I practiced alone. I started to run the mile faster, then surprisingly, I began passing a few students. I had begun to seek solutions to my problems instead of covering them up. I was amazed to find a small weight loss with the increased
running. I told my parents that I wanted to be better. My mom suggested that I run three miles with her. I did that, and worked my way up from there. I trained and ran the Roswell 5K, and a 10K. With these
accomplishments I lost significant weight and knew I had changed, both physically and mentally. I made plans to increase my distance and ran a half marathon. After the half marathon, I decided that I wanted to turn my entire life around and pay more attention to my academics as well as my health.
The Power of Music By Joyce Parry-Moore
I believe in the healing power of music. I’m a singer. As long as I can remember, I’ve understood the way that singing sets my body to vibrating and puts me at one with the universe. But never have I been as aware as two weeks ago, gratefully singing with the Juneau Symphony the soaring melodies of the Verdi Requiem.
It was a moment I’d dreamed of for many years, to solo in that amazing work. But only a Creator full of divine imagination could have dreamt the journey that would lead me to it in the frontiers of Alaska. Imagine: after years of discipline and sacrifice developing a singing career, to suddenly have my heart cracked open through the simultaneous fires of breast cancer and Guiseppi Verdi. Who knew?
There is a tendency to assume that, when facing a serious illness, one must strive for constant peace and contemplation. Although this is a great ideal, you know, sometimes you just feel lousy and you want to scream your fool head off! And that is Sacred too. I remember when, as a passionate teenager trapped in the banality of suburbia, the only place within my Judeo-Christian tradition that could adequately express my range of
emotions were the Psalms, full of angst and so flat-out human that I felt safe in them. It’s that way with Verdi’s Requiem: along with moments of
complete beauty and transcendence, he gives us aggressive rhythms that express the more raw parts of our experience. His music—all great music—is not simply a lovely diversion. It is a physical Force in the world, capable of doing great good.
I’ve been through a few things physically—having borne two children, and raised five, broken my back (literally) as well as my heart, and now am entering the surreal journey of chemo-therapy. But so far nothing quite equals the experience I had on that Sunday afternoon, singing the “Libera Me”: percussion reverberating into my bones, the breath of a hundred chorus members pouring into my back, the vibrations of each instrument rocking me forward like a great wind. Awake and alive, I flew on the combined desire of dozens of friends, colleagues and loved ones, at once privately and publicly at Peace.
Find a Reason to Laugh By Barbara, Louisville, KY
I believe in laughter. I believe in the coping, healing power of laughter that can bring light into a dark experience, and take me beyond a moment of grief, anger, or helplessness.
At my father’s death, my family spent the required hours greeting friends and relatives, hearing their stories and basking in the reflected glow of their love for him. After the company departed, my mother, my eight siblings and I were
I don’t remember the first pun or joke, or who offered the anecdote that got us started. But one of us chuckled. And someone giggled, and in a few minutes we shocked ourselves with laughter that wouldn’t stop. Our individual attempts to restore some dignity to the day were fruitless; with knocks on the door we could only hold our breaths until the kind visitor left condolences and a cake or plate of sandwiches, and we could shudder out the helpless laughter once again. Soon enough, we one-by-one took deep breaths, sighed, and came to our senses. As guilty and baffled as we felt by our seemingly tasteless behavior, we agreed that it was preferable to gathering in a circle and sobbing at our loss and hurt. For those few minutes we weren’t alone. Our laughter was a gift that our Pop had left behind for us, something we still shared despite the bitter wound that was our grief.
We never actually discussed this odd family event. I remembered it as a peculiarity of mourning, a coping mechanism, a release of tension. We had a similar experience five years later with our mother’s death and the stress of meeting and greeting for hours.
I’ve seen laughter at work countless other times in the 20 years since my parents’ deaths. I recognized the laughter of a neighbor as she described a week in the hospital room with her daughter following brain tumor surgery. I’ve seen anger and frustration dissolve when work colleagues have discovered the sillier aspects of power-grabbing. I’ve shared bad jokes and chuckles to catch a half-smile from my elderly aunt who seldom responds to any stimulus at all. I’ve heard the giggles of children, their eyes brimming with unshed tears, who have been able to see the slapstick of their pratfalls and skinned knees.
I’ve seen the wonder of laughter with such consistency that I search for it in difficult situations. I’ve learned that one of the most important steps in dealing with any disaster, real or imagined, is to see that first spark of humor. As soon as I chuckle I know I will eventually cope, and that I will have at least a few seconds of relief from my troubles.
If You Don’t Do It, Who Will? By Jodi Webb, Pottsville, PA
My mom has always been involved, whether it was the church, the school, the team, or the community. And where my mom volunteered, other family members often followed. I remember her comment whenever I protested about a volunteer activity she recruited me for. “It’s for the church” or “It’s for the school.”
When we were growing up my mom focused most of her energy, and the family’s, on those organizations because they relied on volunteers to survive. My brother ran the sound equipment for the school’s annual Christmas play, my dad made bean soup for the church’s summer festival, I spent a few sweltering days reorganizing the elementary school library at the end of each school year. How could anyone dare to refuse? Each demand was accompanied by that unspoken question, “If you don’t do it, who will?”
For my mother, volunteering was as natural as breathing or cleaning out the closets each spring. If it needed to be done and you were capable of doing it, you did it. I like to think of our volunteering as a family trait, like blue eyes or bossiness (both of which run in the family). My grandmother, my mother, and I were all raised in the same small town populated mostly by coal miners. The residents didn’t have much money, but they always had a willingness to help. When my
grandparents were young, the town didn’t have a church, so the miners, after spending twelve hours a day underground, built one. It’s just our nature in this town.
Now as an adult and mother of three children, I have raised my hand at more meetings than I care to count, because that unspoken truth was echoing inside me. As a Girl Scout leader, I spent my Thursday evenings with sixteen
energetic Brownies. As a lunchtime recruiter, I begged dozens of parents to become cafeteria helpers. I baked dozens of cookies to raise money for the school
gardening club. If I didn’t do it, who would?
That little question has also encouraged me to take action in other aspects of my life when I would have preferred to just stay in bed. If I don’t slosh through the rain puddles to vote out an ineffective politician, who will? If I don’t protect my health by cutting fat, adding calcium, and exercising, who will? If I don’t turn off TV programs that are inappropriate for my children, who will?
Sometimes the responsibility that comes with that question seems overwhelming. Responsibility for yourself, your family, your community, your government, your environment. How freeing it would be to turn the obligations of life over to that anonymous group we all love to rely on: “them.” Let “them” worry about endangered whales. Let “them” pick up roadside trash. Let “them” serve on the school board. Let “them” collect tickets at a fund-raiser. But that isn’t what my mother taught me. I could do it. I believe I should do it.