Column: Arts Apathy
Published: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - 12:11pm
I can't help dragging my feet as I climb to the South Attic for orchestra. This is partly because it takes a long time to get there and my senioritis is kicking in. Also, I've just finished lunch, and I'd like to put off going back to class. But mostly it's because orchestra is just not a fun place to be anymore. Getting there early isn't a treat since there are around ninety kids milling around under the supervision of Mr. Murphy. Then when we play, I can hear the apathy in our music and it sounds awful.
I started off the semester in bug biology instead of orchestra. Many seniors choose to take bug biology or statistics instead of orchestra since all three happen during fifth hour only. When choosing classes, students and parents prioritize science and math, and orchestra suffers.
I changed my mind later, though, and transferred from bio to orchestra. This was partly because I cried over my pile of dead bugs, but also because I feel that graduating Uni with five years of orchestra would be an accomplishment, and a testament to my devotion to music.
I seem to be alone in this belief. This year I am the only senior in the string section. Last year there were only two. I don't mind talking to friends who are in other classes- that's not the problem. The problem is that most of the kids in each subbie class are in chorus or orchestra but by the time they become seniors there are only a handful left.
This trend is probably influenced by the arts credit system. Some students are only in orchestra to fill their mandatory arts quota, and once they have, they leave. But until then, they slouch in their chairs, play off-key on un-tuned instruments, or neglect to even bring their instruments. That means they can't participate, so they get free time as a reward.
That leads to another issue. There are always several people who don't play, and are allowed to sit on the sidelines and do homework. This practice is a lifesaver for people who have been sick, or extremely busy because of extracurriculars. On Tuesday, Mr. Murphy allowed me to do some calculus during the first half of class because it's tech week for The Nutcracker, and I'm rehearsing from 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. However, some people make this a habit, which is unfair to everyone else.
This encourages the people who are participating to slack off. There's a mentality of "If my friends get to do homework or talk to people now, why should I be working hard?"
Broken instruments are also frustrating. The conditions of the south attic are less than ideal for string instruments: humidity and temperature leave them out of tune. Also, small pieces like rock-stops for the cellists can get lost easily in the crowded mass of cases piled on the tables and floor. Without a rock-stop, the endpin of my cello slips on the floor, causing the scroll to smack my shoulder.
These are my grievances. These are the overwhelming factors that prevent people from having a pleasant orchestra experience. It's almost impossible to encourage musicality in a community where math and science take the lead, and class is bogged down by the time, the facilities, and the people who join just because they're required to.
Still, I'm proud that my brother is in it. I hope he'll continue to enjoy sitting first chair once in a while (even though he's a subbie) because there's no one else to take the position. It's a sad fact that upperclassmen in orchestra are a scarcity, but maybe we can see it as an opportunity for younger students to shine.