By Molly Rosenfeld
You might have seen the “10 Day Performer/Artist Challenge” circling on Social Media. “Every day, select an image from a day in the life of a Performer/Artist: A photo from a day you felt fierce or a memorable moment you’ve had during a practice/performance/show, or anything else meaningful to you. Be active, be positive, be passionate… Raise Awareness of the Arts!” The idea was that you nominate a person a day, but no one ever nominated me.
When my college, San Jose State University, canceled classes due to COVID-19 in early March, my parents decided I’d be better off at home in Southern California sooner rather than later. I changed my flight back to Long Beach to two weeks earlier than planned. Stuck at home in parent-imposed isolation, I was more than a little bored, so I was trying to find productive things to do. I had access to old photos, and I decided to nominate myself.
Music has been an important part of my life since I did “Music Together” classes with my mom as a toddler. I started violin lessons at school in third grade, and switched to cello seven years later, at the end of ninth grade, my freshman year of high school.
I had a lot of fun picking out photos, ranging from a shot of me sitting at my grandmother’s piano when I was two, to the yearbook photo of one of my school orchestras. For the tenth and final day, I wanted to do something to tie it all together. With a lightbulb moment of inspiration, I pulled all of the paper concert programs I had saved. There were a lot! I was able to fit a decade’s worth on the family coffee table, 2007 to 2017. They represent my growth as a musician, and the journey of a lifetime.
Programs for talent shows at Emerson Parkside Academy Charter School, held in the Millikan High School auditorium, to performances as an intermediate “All Star” and Chamber Orchestra Violin III at Leland Stanford Middle School. Then to my one concert as an eighth grade second violinist in the Ohlendorf Orchestra, the middle school Honor Orchestra for the Long Beach Unified School District. It was the first, last, and only time I received city-wide recognition. I was too busy to audition for the high school honor orchestra in ninth grade and tenth grade, not invited to participate in eleventh grade, and was an alternate as a senior, so I wasn’t able to rehearse or perform.
From programs for concerts of original scores of Sibelius and Tchaikovsky at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, before I thought I’d ever have a chance to play music at that level, to accompanying Zigeunerweisen, violinist Christina Eastman’s Senior Solo, to my grand cello debut at fifteen. To the conspicuously absent year that was 2014, the darkest year of my young life. For reasons beyond my control, I was forced to stop playing, and it was devastating. To my comeback at seventeen. This collection ends with programs from the first three shows of Orchestra at the Beach, the long awaited official second orchestra at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University, Long Beach. I had the honor and privilege of being a founding member during my early years of college.
I didn’t include programs from choir concerts or studio recitals where I performed solo pieces. Honestly, they’re not as important to me. Singing has always been more of a hobby, and I take more pride in the music I’ve played collaboratively.
Without orchestra, I’d have a giant hole in my life and heart. I’d feel unfulfilled and almost empty. As a tiny and eager eight year-old with a half size violin, I never imagined that a decade later I’d be a cellist in a university orchestra, but I never stopped doing what I loved; sharing my musical gifts with anyone willing to listen.
Last April, all of my figurative blood, literal sweat, and occasional tears of frustration tangibly paid off. I was accepted to the undergraduate music program at the School of Music and Dance at San Jose State University. I’m currently pursuing Bachelor of Arts degrees in behavioral science and music. Sometimes I still can’t wrap my head around that. I’ve felt pure shock and disbelief, and awe. I’ve been proud, angry, and sad. I’ve waited, persevered, and triumphed.
I find myself spending a lot of time reflecting on my experiences in orchestra, but rarely appreciating the whirlwind they have proved to be. COVID-19 has forced me to stop and think about how lucky I really am. I found my greatest passion in grade school and held on to it. I’ve been so fortunate, in all but one year since, the only things that have stood in the way are my own feelings of “Maybe there’s a better way to spend my time” “This isn’t worth the work I’ll have to put in” and “I’ll never be good enough”. I’ve pushed through. I’ve spent nearly two-thirds of my life as a true musician, and there’s not a chance I’m stopping now. I’ve decided to pursue a career in music therapy. I can’t wait to combine two of the things I love the most: music and helping others become their best self.
Thank you to everyone who has been part of this journey. As always, to Cecilia Tsan, my cello inspiration. The first performance of Kol Nidre was all that it took for me to fall in love with cello, even though my brain needed time to catch up with my heart. To my classmates and fellow ensemble members who have become some of my dearest friends, and all of my teachers over the years, and to my family, for the unwavering support you’ve given me. I love each and every one of you, and appreciate you more than you’ll ever know. I always have, and I always will.