November 9. The day members of Symphonic and Wind Ensemble Bands all around the school were dreading.The day of the District Band Auditions.
My leg bounces up and down as my mother and I drive into the parking lot. I think she’s lecturing me on why I shouldn’t be nervous, but I’m to busy being nervous to listen. Just yesterday, I had driven into the same parking lot, excited for the last day of the school week, my comfy boots clunking to the beat of the music blaring out of my headphones as I made my way to the glass double doors. Now when I looked at the parking lot, crammed with unfamiliar kids, my heart races and my mind swims with What If’s.
What if I have to go first?
What if I can’t find my friends?
What if I accidentally look at the wrong letter and play at the wrong time?
What if I mess up?
What if, what if, what if?
“-you think you did matters!” My mom finishes.
“Huh?” I blink. “Oh, yeah, thanks.” I give her a shaky smile and she beams at me. I grab all of my stuff and run to the doors on unsteady legs. Finally, after many stepped on toes, not-so-friendly words, and fiery glares from band members from visiting schools, I reach the cafeteria. The sound hits me like a sack of bricks. Tubas, trumpets, flutes, clarinets and more all blending together to make one huge, loud mass of complete and total chaos. I cringe and search the crowd for my friends. I spot my friend Olympia towards the edge of the cafeteria, practicing her music and taking a small break to chat with her saxophone buddies. I take a deep breath and walk towards them, trying to keep my flute case from slipping out of my sweaty fingers.
“Hey,” I force another nervous smile. Geez, I’m going to run out of those sooner or later.
“Hey!” she says cheerfully. “You nervous?”
“No, that’s not why my legs are shaking and I look like I’m going to pass out.” I respond, my voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Well, you better start warming up. Auditions start in a few minutes.”
I obediently unpack my flute and start to practice. Olympia playfully attempts to play my music, and half of me smiles, but the other half’s heart sinks when I realize that she’s almost as good as me. We laugh and joke and practice for awhile before the ugly screech of the microphone fills the cafeteria.
“Hello, students, welcome to the 2013 District Band Auditions!” A male voice drones from the speakers. “Blah blip diddy bloo dum dee…” I ignore the rest of his speech before he starts telling us our rooms. “Flutes will be in room 300, clarinets blah blah blah…” I gather up my music and my flute and start heading to my room. On my way, I see my friend Josh, a fellow flutist, sauntering down the hall. I jog to catch up to him.
“Hola,” I greet.
“Hey,” he frowns at the room numbers on the wall. “Where’s room 300?”
“Straight ahead,” I point at the room in front of us. “Do you think Vivian’s monitoring our room?”
He shrugs. “Dunno.”
We walk in silence for awhile, and I start to calm down. It’ll be just like when you play for Ms. Curtis, or for the band, I reassure myself. I’m deep in thought when slam into Josh who has stopped in front of me.
“Sarah!” A familiar voice squeals.
I look up and see a giddy Vivian running toward me. I smile, happy to know she’s here. She hugs me, squeezing the air out of my lungs.
“Hi! I didn’t know you were monitoring this room.” I grin.
“Have you two signed in?” She asks, gesturing to Josh and me.
“Ladies first,” he steps back and smiles goofily, making me laugh, which eases my nerves.
I sign in and trace my finger along the line to the letter assigned to me. R. That’s not bad. Not first, not last. I take a seat and chat with Vivian, Josh, and a few other flute friends until one of the monitors walks to the front of the room and begins to speak. She explains how we are supposed to act, and in what order we are supposed to perform. And finally, she tells us what we are going to be playing. I am pleasantly surprised; all of the easiest parts of the easiest etudes. Vivian returns to her monitors seat and starts to fiddle with her boots.
The first person plays, and my nerves jump again. She’s amazing! How am I supposed to beat that? What if everyone else sounds like that? What if I’m the worst? My knee stars bouncing again, and Josh raises an eyebrow at me. I try to stop it, but even when I straighten it, it still shakes. I lean forward and press my hand onto my knee, but that just makes my whole body shake, my head quickly bobbing up and down, and my teeth clicking. Josh and Val, one of my other friends, both smile and stifle laughter. I smile, too, grateful I’m not stuck here with a bunch of random people I don’t know.
Before I know it, O has played, P is at the playing chair, and because Q is absent, I am at the ready chair. P’s performance goes by too quickly, and soon she is walking back to her seat, and the announcer is calling my letter to the playing chair. I take another deep breath to pull myself together, and walk to the playing chair with my chin up. I sit down and exhale, flipping to my scale page. The first scale is C major, which is the easiest scale I have learned. I inhale, and play the first note. It’s clear and pretty, and the rest of my scale comes out perfectly. I smile to myself and move on to the F major scale. I sing the notes in my head. F, G, A, B flat- I stop. I have no clue why. The scale sounded fine, I got the right notes, I was ready to play C. I sigh and start again, not really thinking, pondering over that one mistake. I finish the F major, then the E major, then I turn to the etude. I test my first note; not bad, it’s pretty good for a seventh grader. I start, still wondering how my mistake on the F major will effect my score. When I am almost halfway through, I realize that I am breathing way too much. Almost every measure. But I can’t hold my breath as long as I normally can, for some reason, I always get short of breath when I’m nervous.
When I am done, and the announcer instructs me to go back to my seat, I stand and walk back, my heart still beating. Josh high-fives me softly so we don’t make a scene and Val gives me a thumbs up. I smile, not knowing how well I did. All of that was instinct, and I’m afraid that instinct isn’t good enough. The rest of the performances drag on, and there is a short break between round 1 and 2. I hang out with Vivian for awhile, then we head back to the room. Round 2 is a bit harder than round 1, but my nerves are, once again, calm. I play, and wait, and finally when we are finished, I leap up and run to the door. Vivian runs with me, and we stretch out our stiff legs and shoulders.
We meet up with a few other friends, and we all talk and help clean up as we wait for results. About half an hour after the auditions, a boy from a different school comes running into the room, telling us that the results are up. Still laughing and goofing around, we walk to the cafeteria and are greeted by a huge mob accumulated around several sheets of paper taped to the wall. Vivian and I walk towards it, wondering if it’s worth it to just bull-doze our way through.
I see Josh sitting at a table with a few other people and when he sees me, he yells something, but I can’t hear him over the crowd. He yells again, this time, louder, so I can hear him much more clearly.
“YOU MADE IT TO DISTRICT!”
My face breaks into a wide grin, and I turn and run to the board, and sure enough, placed 14th out of 44 is me. I squeal with delight. I didn’t advance, but I made District, which is pretty good for a seventh grader. Vivian gives me a high-five and we talk and joke some more before it’s time for me to leave. I learned a lot from this experience, whether it be as small as a way to stay confident during a performance, to what I might want to do in college. Even though I spent more than half of my time worrying and shaking, the rest was fun, and I can’t wait for next year!