I am a major band nerd.
All through high school, I played flute in marching band, concert band, pep band, the works. I even woke up at 7 every Saturday morning for a year and drove 30 minutes to play in a nearby youth symphony. When I heard that Campus Philly (the best thing that’s ever happened to broke college students) was giving out free tickets to see the Philadelphia Symphony perform, I couldn’t have been more excited. Unless someone gave me a lifetime supply of free coffee. Then I’d definitely be more jazzed—sorry about the music pun (but not that sorry).
The night of the performance, I downloaded my e-ticket and set off, dragging a significantly less nerdy friend along for the ride. I knew as soon as I stepped into the Kimmel Center that this would be a night to remember. I was shocked to see how many college students were milling about the concert hall. Who knew there were this many geeks in Philadelphia?
As the clock ticked closer to 8 p.m., my excitement grew. I couldn’t wait to revisit my high school memories, or to help expose my friend to the world of classical music.
Finally. Show time.
The musicians took their seats and began to tune. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the classical music world, tuning is supposed to sound terrible. It’s the time for all of the musicians to check their pitch; to make sure that their sound blends properly with those around them. In my experience, tuning is a jumbled mess of sharp notes, flat notes, and squeaks. In other words, auditory garbage.
This, however, was absolutely beautiful. The deep, rich tone filled the entire hall, vibrating in every fiber of my being. I was speechless—and the concert hadn’t even started yet.
What followed was an indescribable musical experience. A solo cellist kicked off the performance, bringing the piece he played alive with his obvious enthusiasm and incredible talent. He made his instrument look as though it was merely an extension of his body, effortlessly alternating between slow, lyrical movements and upbeat pizzicato. His breathtaking playing was followed by an awe-inspiring Beethoven. The delicate vibrato of violins melded seamlessly with audacious trumpet blasts, all layered over a foundation of low, smooth bass. Every strain was executed flawlessly, with emotion pouring out of each and every note. The music of the Philadelphia Orchestra surpassed ordinary definitions of the word music—even if you absolutely detest the classical genre. When the last echo faded, I was left with a new appreciation for what a performance could be.
As we walked back to the train station, my friend and I couldn’t stop gushing over the concert. Even though she had never played in a symphony or spent hours practicing Mozart, she was just as awestruck as I was. In the end, the music had been powerful enough to do something unthinkable: It had actually turned someone into a band nerd. Now, that’s my kind of performance.
Photo of Kimmel Center by Dena Tarlin