For me, as an adult student, there aren’t many ensemble opportunities. Manhattan Kansas is relatively small and there isn’t an amateur orchestra, nor are there any trios, quartets, et cetera (that I am aware of). Fortunately Manhattan is home to an annual grade and middle school event called String Fling.
String Fling hosts 600 to 700 5th through 9th graders for a day and a half on the campus of Kansas State University. Orchestras are assembled around the grade levels. They rehearse all day Saturday, swim in the University pool that evening, and rehearse again Sunday morning before performing for family, friends, and their peers in concert Sunday morning. Next year, in January 2013, String Fling will celebrate its 40th year.
Two years ago, when I had barely a month of lessons under my belt, David suggested to me that I might find it fun to sit in with one of the 5th grade orchestras. David is the head of String Fling and he thought it would be a good experience for me and fun for the kids to see that adults learn new things too.
Last year I participated again, sitting in with one of the 7th grade orchestras. Both the first year and last year my biggest frustration was not being able to sight read the music. My theory is that the grade school kids play in their school orchestra daily (or at least several times each week) and therefore have more experience playing brand new music. Both previous years I brought my music home at lunch and over night to add finger numbers and to practice so that I could keep up during the performance on Sunday. It is very humbling to be schooled by people a 5th of your age.
This year I am participating once again. This time I’m in a 6th grade orchestra. And this time I asked if I could see a copy of the music ahead of time. To my great delight David provided me with the music my orchestra will be playing last Sunday. So I’ve had a week to get to know the three pieces and practice them. I know that I’m not yet at performance tempo, but I won’t be left in the dust either.
Regardless of how well I am able to keep up with the orchestra I am thrilled to have a chance to play with a group. I am extremely fortunate to have this opportunity and I aim to make the most of it.