I was ten years old when I first walked into an orchestra rehearsal from one of the orchestras at Hofstads Jeugdorkest. This is a youth orchestra association, with five symphony orchestras and a string ensemble, for people from the age of seven till the age of 25. The orchestras are all different levels and as you grow in age and playing you go up in level. I joined in the second lowest level, and worked my way up to the big symphony orchestra in five years time (which is quite average). It wasn’t just a rehearsal every week, with a concert now and then. I saw the same people every week and with all the making music together, I grew pretty close with some. Every year we would do a rehearsal weekend, then you go to some camp location somewhere in the Netherlands to study the music for 2-3 days, depending on the level. These weekends were (or are, I didn’t leave the orchestra to some extent, I will explain this later) pretty intense. A day would start with some people waking you up with trumpets and Kinderen voor Kinderen music, they would get you to do morning gymnastics (if you weren’t ready for that in three minutes you had to do extra push-ups). After that was breakfast, that’s just continuing the conversation you had with your friends in your room at 3 am, and then rehearsals started. Pretty much all day long there were rehearsals, and then at night we played games together, either inside or outside in the dark forest, depending on the weather.
When I was fourteen years old I went on my first tour with this orchestra, the second highest level, to west Germany. It was the first time I went away from home without my family for an entire week. I had the time of my life. Nothing crazy, but just being in a new environment, surrounded by friends all the time, making music together is so amazing. And having a concert every night is just an indescribable experience. I had another tour like this in 2019, to France, with the highest level orchestra. This was just as amazing, and because I was figuring myself out at that moment and I had closer friends, it was cause for even deeper conversations, this time at the beach. We also have a yell within the orchestra, we learn this when we are about ten years old and the lyrics are pretty weird (words like ‘burrawonka, wonkitata and nankin kielekiele are involved), but the building of the energy in this is so amazing. There’s a video of this, and everytime I show this to people they tell me I’m in a cult (just app me if you want to see it).
I had certain role models within the orchestra. These people were about four years older than me and amazingly good at their instruments. Every now and then the bigger orchestras would split up in their different sections and have a section rehearsal, led by people in the highest level orchestra (or if you’re in there by professional musicians). These people were everywhere, organizing these rehearsals, but also planning fun activities, mostly on the camps. Some of them were also in my high school, so I saw them quite a lot. They were like real life folk legends. When I was about seventeen I got to know them in person, and we would have casual conversations. I now passed the age they were when they were my role models, and I have given these group rehearsals myself, but if someone asks me about them, I would still talk excitedly about how great musicians they are, and share funny anecdotes about things that happened, because they’re not just great musicians, they’re also very fun people and they helped me see what kind of people I fit in with best.
About a year ago I decided to quit the big symphony orchestra. I had switched to playing oboe a year before that, because it was time for a new challenge for me back then. I learned to play the oboe in a very short time, but it was hard for me to live up to the expectations of my conductor, and this rehearsal didn’t really fit in my schedule anymore, it was just too hard. When I switched instruments in the orchestra, I also joined the string ensemble at the association, a group of fifteen people who are the best and most motivated string players at the high level symphony orchestra (I’m still not sure if and how I fit into that, but I’m having fun there) and with work and uni, it just started to clash. Now I’m still in the string ensemble, with the most amazing people. We go on tour as well (I went with them on tour last summer vacation, to France again) and it’s less intense with all the people, but it’s very cozy and a lot of fun.
Because we’re doing a concert together with the highest level symphony orchestra (they play in one section of the programm, we play in the other section), my conductor asked if some of us who quit the orchestra want to join them for this concert. We would have to go to the next four rehearsals before the concert and then we would be good. I said yes, because to be fair, I kind of really missed seven trumpets blasting my ears off (yes seven, we also got seven clarinets, it’s a lot). Last saturday was my first rehearsal back at the orchestra in the second violin section, and even though all the substitute players are the people who play most confidentially, me included, I couldn’t make anything of the notes I had to play. Luckily, I still have some time left to practice.
After that first (very fun) rehearsal last Saturday, I went to the train station to get home in the tram with a few people. I was talking with one of them, I had seen her before apparently because she remembered me, but I didn’t remember her. She mentioned that one of my previous role models was coming to give a section rehearsal to some people in the second highest level orchestra, and she did hear of him once or twice, but she didn’t really know who he was. While he was a legend in ‘my time’, everyone knew him and his friends. This made me realize that the experience I had in the orchestra, isn’t one that everyone in there had, or will have. I think it’s the same with Hucbald, boards come and go, committees come and go, legends live on for a while, but at some point there will be new legends. This sounds lowkey sad ofcourse, but I think it’s actually wonderful. It shows the continuity of time, it shows that everyone has the chance to become such a legend and inspire other people in different places. Your actions may be small, but they will be noticed by people, something that I think is beautiful.