My first time with a professional orchestra.

Back in October I found my stress levels rising, the spots breaking out, and the ability to sleep diminishing.  My boyfriend came home on several occasions to me crying in front of the Supervet in the evenings.  All this was due to one incredible, but nerve-wracking, weekend I was about to spend with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

The project was an opportunity for selected members of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales to join the orchestra in it’s annual collaboration.  Rehearsals started on Friday morning, and culminated in a wonderful Halloween themed family concert on Sunday afternoon in St David’s Hall, Cardiff.  Now you may think, “that doesn’t sound so bad?” “what’s wrong with her?” “get a grip girl” — and of course, the sane part of me was thinking about how wonderful this educational opportunity would be, and how who knows when I may next have the opportunity to rehearse with a professional orchestra!? But the irrational part of my brain had these three main issues in mind:

1. I am a clarinettist – This can be terrifying, normally in an orchestra there are only two to four of you, so if you make a mistake, people know who it was!

2. Radio broadcast – They really shouldn’t have told me that before the concert

3. How on earth can I possibly balance all my college and work commitments and play anything accurately to a standard my teachers would call “ok”!

4.  My teacher – I know I said I had three things in mind, but I wouldn’t accurately be describing myself as nervous if the things I was worried about didn’t spiral out a little… Anyhow, three days before my teacher informed me he would be one of the tutors and acting as guest principal clarinet!

(Now if the thought of spending the weekend with your teacher listening to all your mistakes doesn’t terrify you I don’t know what does!)

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The clarinet section backstage! Left to right: John Cooper, Lydia Clough, Me!, Michael Whight

In the end listening back at the radio broadcast to the short simple clarinet solo from Gounod’s March of the Marionette, I think how silly I was. All the stress and for what? Being part of the orchestra wasn’t as terrifying as I wanted it to be, and I really wasn’t the only one making mistakes. Instead of worrying about what people thought of me I should have spent more time talking to the amazing people I had the honour of playing with. Fortunately I calmed down enough after the first couple of hours to really enjoy and appreciate what was happening around me, a great experience. I sincerely hope that wasn’t the last time I will perform with them.

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