W. A. Mozart.
When I first began to study the violin I went to a Catholic boy's school
called the Latin School in Indianapolis. It was a very small school,
probably not more than 100 students. In a sense it was a minor
seminary for Catholic priests, and a good percentage of the students
there did go on to take orders.
But the curriculum was limited. And in terms of music they only offered
two classes — music theory and band. During this time I had just taken
up the violin and given everything there was little recourse. A violin
didn't quite fit into a band. I did take the music theory class though
and learned a few basics. But during this time my main instruction came
from my music teacher at Butler University.
Towards about the end of the year I began to feel a lack. I wanted more
music classes. In fact I had become pretty much obsessed with music,
and started to think about the possibility of going to the public high
school that was a block away from where I lived. Southport High offered
a very good number of music classes. And the location was certainly more
convenient than traveling from the suburbs all the way to downtown
Indianapolis every day. And so, as soon as the school year let out, I
walked down to Southport and registered for the coming school year.
Being registered allowed me the use of the school library, which also
included a small music library. I started to check out recordings and
would listen to them at home on my dad's stereo. My knowledge of the
catalog began to expand. I was a neophyte: everything was brand new.
As it happened the closest entrance from the school to my house exited
out of the wing of the music department. One afternoon after hitting
the library I noticed a man at a desk in the music department office.
In a very uncharacteristic way for me at the time — I was incredibly
reserved — I decided to stop in the office and talk to him. His name
was Guy Rumsey, and as he told me he was the head of the music
department. After a bit I told him that I had registered for orchestra
class for the following year. But I had to be honest with him. I bared
my soul so to speak and confessed that I hadn't been playing violin all
that long and that I really had no idea if I could handle orchestra.
Hearing that, he told me that he was in the process of holding practice
sessions for the string sections of the orchestra to prepare a bit for
the coming year. And he invited me to test myself by sitting in with them,
even though officially I was not registered for that summer class. And I
They were only meeting once a week. My first rehearsal with them I have
to admit that I walked in scared shitless. I had yet to play a recital with
my teacher Mrs. Rhodes; had never played in an ensemble; and knew
I had at that point a limited skill set. I was placed last stand 2nd
violin, and due to the number of players in the section I held the stand
by myself. Which was just fine with me. There was nobody to hear my
very novice playing.
That summer we practiced a number of pieces that Mr. Rumsey was
hoping to include in our student convocations or the end of the semester
orchestra concert. Among them, in fact the first orchestra work I played
on the very first day, was a simplified arrangement for string orchestra
of Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus. I tried my best to hit all the right
notes, play in time with the ensemble under Mr. Rumsey's direction.
By the time I reached my Senior year I managed to get third chair 1st
Violin. But, a few weeks into the year, our new music director Mrs. Putz
came to me and asked me if I would consider moving to first chair 2nd
violin to see if I could help the rest of the section, which consisted of
rank freshmen. I accepted, actually quite happily. I liked 2nd Violin,
liked the idea of playing the more support role. I sometimes think I
would have made an ideal viola player because of that.
The next year came college. I walked in to our first day of rehearsal
there somewhat doubting my talent, playing in an orchestra in the second
largest music school in the U.S. with works such as Shostakovich's 9th
and the Beethoven Egmont overture on our plate. But nevertheless,
thinking back to that first day in high school and the Ave Verum Corpus,
I pushed on thinking that I could learn and somehow get through all of it.
And so I did.
Mozart, Ave Verum Corpus, K. 618.