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TAFTO 2006 Essay Contest Winner
All she really wanted was a dress but she ended up with much more.

by Drew McManus
May 1, 2006

The following essay was selected from among the many submissions for the Take A Friend To Orchestra Month 2006 essay contest as the winning contribution. It is written by Jessica D., a high school Sophomore from Centennial, CO.

Taking a friend to orchestra was the highlight of my Spring. I hate to sound like a superficial teenager, but it first started with a shopping trip. Last month there was a fantastic dress at a boutique I begged for. My mom said that if I found an appropriate place to wear it, she would buy it for me. I really wanted the dress, so I suggested the symphony. I hadn't really planned on going, but she seemed happy enough with the plan that she bought the dress and a few tickets for my friends and me.

I have never been to a real orchestra concert before. The Colorado Symphony was my first encounter with professional musicians and with live music that wasn't electrified. So my expectations were not the highest, even though my friends had attended before and said it would be fine. The evening was fabulous! I can't say which piece was my favorite; they all effected me in such differing ways.

The concert opened with the Russian Easter Overture. The trombone solo was so melancholy and so moving, it made me feel reflective. That is until the piece picked up volume and the percussion section added sparkle to the last half of overture. Next was the Polivetian Dances. It struck me as colorful, exotic and rich. The tunefulness made me want to sing along with the group, but nobody else was, so I followed my instincts on that one.

Anyway, next was Capricio Espaniol. The color was brilliant and exciting. Sharp and exhilarating came to mind. This piece made me want to grab the tambourine from the drummers and shake it myself. But once again, everyone else was sitting and behaving. I think I will go buy the recording and my own tambourine and go nuts in the privacy of my own room!

The last piece was heart pumping, shocking, and electrifying. There were so many ways to enjoy the three sections of the Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances, I'm not even sure where to start. From the beginning, I was in love with this piece though. It captured emotions I had not felt, and rode like a rollercoaster all the way to the incredible ending. And just like a roller coaster, I wanted to do that piece all over again!

Monday at school my friends and I shared our experiences with several other friends. It was so fascinating to hear how they perceived the performance. Listening to each of them explain how they enjoyed the concert made me want to see it again, but listen in a different way. My friend Kelly mostly watched musicians. She noticed things like switching instruments in the clarinet section, the brass players breathing together, and the string section moving their bows in sync. Brianna was mostly interested in the violins. She noticed the differences in texture with how the violin players moved the bows fast or slow, long or short. And Meg had the coolest insight. She saw various players actually look at each other before playing together.

When I got home, I told my mom about what my friends and I talked about at school and she offered to take me to a few more concerts. I called up my friends and they all agreed to go along so when it was all over, I got the dress, I'm going to go see a few more concerts, and most important, I got a dimension to my life that I had obviously been missing. I'm glad I went. Thanks Mom!

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