And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
It seems funny that a week after writing the last Moment, one about Olivia, we run into a situation where Olivia had to deal with a jerk.
I’ve written often of Olivia’s love of the violin, her talent, her amazing connection with music. Olivia began playing in the fourth grade, a year before orchestra would be offered in the schools. She came home from school one day, after watching an orchestra play in the gym for an assembly, and declared she wanted to play the violin. “I love it, Mama!” she said, her hands folded fervently in front of her heart. “I love it!”
The following weekend, I was participating in a poetry reading and Olivia came along. Before the reading, a string quartet played. Olivia sat on the edge of her seat through their entire performance. The eyes she lifted to me were enamored.
And so Santa brought a violin for Christmas and Olivia started in on private lessons. At just a few weeks shy of 21 years old, she is still with the same instructor, whom we adore. Olivia’s gone through three violins (the first accidentally fell down the stairs when she didn’t have the latches done quite right on the case), and has added acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and ukulele to her repertoire. She played in middle and high school orchestras, participated in the state competitions and came home with gold medals, and was asked to audition for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s youth orchestra. She politely declined, as she was worried that the time spent rehearsing would affect her academics.
When it came time for college, Olivia applied to four and got in to all of them. All came with attractive financial offers. When we visited these schools, we asked each one if they had a music program. While Olivia plans to become an art therapist, she still wanted to be involved with music too. All of the schools said yes. She chose Mount Mary University, the place I wrote about last week with the labyrinth.
And then we were disappointed to find out that their music “program” contained classes in beginning guitar and beginning piano and chorus. That’s it. No strings whatsoever. Olivia sighed and continued with her private lessons.
She told me once in her freshman year that a girl down the hall from her dorm room said that whenever Olivia practiced, this girl danced around her own room with her guinea pig. I think that’s just as amazing as being invited to audition for MSO’s youth orchestra.
So now in her junior year, Olivia felt comfortable enough with her time management to start looking around for an orchestra to participate in. She missed playing in a group. One of my students who also plays violin told me about her community orchestra, which was near the university. I reached out to the director, told him about Olivia, received an enthusiastic response, and then turned over communication to Olivia.
This director invited her to audition at the next rehearsal. Olivia chose her audition piece, practiced it over and over under her private instructor’s guidance, she dressed carefully for her audition, and she showed up.
No one was there.
Olivia called the director, who said he must have forgotten to tell her the rehearsal was canceled and rescheduled.
Olivia asked about rescheduling her audition. He told her to come to where he works, at a church, relatively late in the evening. No one else would have been there.
Strike two. I stepped in and said no.
Olivia scheduled the audition for a Friday afternoon, still at the church, but when others were around. At the audition, the director played some notes on the piano and asked Olivia to sing them. Sing. Not play the violin. Olivia sang and the director told her she was tone deaf. She’s not. Then she played and he told her her tonality was off and her rhythm was off. It wasn’t. He told her to come back in a few semesters. “Mom,” Olivia said. “He didn’t say one positive thing.”
Strike three. And she won’t be back in a few semesters.
Olivia was crushed. “I guess I’m not as good as I thought I was,” she said, all the positive words she’s ever heard, all the praise, all the honest and helpful critique, all her lessons, everything, going right out the window.
Mama Bear here had to pretty much sit on her hands. Nothing I could do would likely change this guy’s mind, his heart, or his attitude.
But I put my head together with Olivia’s private instructor, who was just as horrified and angry as I was. With some research, we found the Wisconsin Intergenerational Orchestra. I cautiously emailed the director. What I received back was phenomenal enthusiasm and a “Send her! Send her! Send her!”
This last Tuesday, Olivia walked in to her first rehearsal. It was her first time in a group setting since she graduated from high school two years ago. She spoke quietly to the director, who welcomed her. And by the time she left, Olivia was sitting second chair in the first violin section.
While she was there, I was teaching a class, but I was watching the clock. I knew when Olivia arrived, when she sat down, when she played. And then I ran upstairs and got to my computer just as she got back to her dorm room. “How was it?” I asked. “How did you do?”
“Mama,” Olivia said. “I loved it.”
Bam. Home run. Her doubts disappeared and it was the jerk who flew out the window, to fall a bajillion stories down, out of my daughter’s life forever.
Oh, what he missed.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.
If you’d like to see information on the Wisconsin Intergenerational Orchestra: https://www.wiorchestra.org/