News from SLHSO

The Seven Lakes Orchestras focus on overcoming challenges as a team; I am part of a smaller one. As a pianist, I’m often on the sidelines for events pertaining to the orchestra aspect of SLORK. It can be isolating, sometimes, sitting in a practice room for a concert or contest season as the orchestra rehearses together daily. It can be nerve-wracking being called out of the practice room once in a while, wondering if I’m about to sight-read a piece of music I’ve never seen before or if I’ve missed some crucial information announced while I was in the practice room. It can also be incredibly exciting — always wondering what the next step is, knowing that anyone and everyone can hear any mistake I make in the music, cherishing every opportunity to join the stage with the orchestras.

Here’s where my experience differs most from that of string players in SLORK: I am usually my own section. If not for the fact that I started out as a violinist in SLORK during my freshman year, I may not know the feeling of having rehearsal every day (because as a pianist, I’m usually required for only small bits of rehearsal or not required at all). I don’t share jokes with my section during class unless I laugh to myself. And, when the orchestra celebrates our achievements at the end of the day, I congratulate the others more often than I revel with them because I question my part in all of it if I didn’t play.

But, at the end of all of it, I believe that even though I miss out on some things, I have access to others that are so dear to me. SLORK pianists form close bonds with each other — we share the same responsibility of taking care of our pianos and keyboards, keep each other updated on what we may miss in each other’s classes, and discuss our latest musical endeavors, worries, and achievements with each other. We spend time together during rehearsal and fill in for each other when one of us is unable to cover it. In other words, SLORK has given me close relationships through both shared and unshared experiences.

Another name for Pianist in SLORK should be Miscellaneous Instrumentalist. Since pianists play the keyboard, we take care of parts that are lacking of players in the orchestra (the most common instruments we play on the keyboard are organ, celeste, and harp). Partly as a result of this, we are also given the opportunity to play non-string parts. Every year, for our annual “Sleigh Ride” performance, two pianists play the sleigh bells and the slapstick (the most coveted opportunity usually resolved for senior pianists!) and last year, one of our pianists learned to play the djembe, a traditional African goblet-shaped drum played with bare hands. However, sometimes we break tradition as last year, we included collaborative pieces scored for piano four hands. We also have multiple opportunities throughout our career to play concertos with our orchestras>

Pros and cons exist to everything, and I believe that the con of not playing in every piece and every rehearsal is offset by all of the different opportunities that is given to pianists and the responsibility that we learn to acquire as a result of often being the only person on a single instrumental part. I can genuinely say is that I do not regret making the switch from playing the violin to playing the piano within SLORK, and I would not change my experiences for anything. The isolation felt in the class is worth it in the SLORK events that we do, in being happy both with and for the orchestra, in every piece that I do get to play with them, in the two hundred family members that I’ve gained, and in the joyfully exhausting, beautiful feeling of playing some large, “impossible” piece for the final time.

Stephanie Cham, Pianist, Class of 2015