I am in the green room of the chapel at Concordia, waiting to jump back up on stage to finish out our annual Christmas Chorale concert. Mostly it’s been peaceful and quiet, although about five minutes ago, the sopranos from our choir decided to hold a quick meeting about their performance this evening; spparently it was not up to par. Soon the wind ensemble will finish their part, and undoubtedly the brass players will lumber back in here to finish up their game of Uno. The kids at this school are lovable and quirky, and do a lot to make me nostalgic for my own days of college. I’m enjoying being a wallflower at the moment, and learning about how the students are dealing with this transformative time in their lives and music careers.

I had a student two days sgo that made me beam. Not exactly with pride, but with the realization that I am following a career that will never be boring. He’s one of my shyest students, never really saying too much in lessons, no matter how many questions I try to ask. This lesson, however, prompted a story from his mere appearance, as he waltzed into my room with a toy gun tucked under his arm.

With raised eyebrows, I pointed. “What is that you’re carrying?” He smiled sheepishly. “It’s a Nerf gun. We’re in the middle of a campus-wide game of humans versus zombies.”

While this is most likely ample enough explanation for the reader, I had to ask him to elaborate. Apparently it was a contest for their athletic club. He had to run all over campus to avoid getting tagged by a zombie, as that would turn him into a zombie as well. The Nerf guns would temporarily stun a zombie, presumably allowing a human time to escape. Those who were still in human form by 8pm that evening would be awarded a prize. “There are already 99 zombies, and ONLY 59 humans,” he explained. He then sidled his shoulder up to the edge of my studio window, and glanced carefully outside, as if he was expecting some sort of zombie sniper to be awaiting him on the ground. It was fantastic to witness – it was really the first glimmer of personality I had seen emerge from this kid.

Unfortunately, as he was only a music minor and had finished his private lesson requirement, it was most likely the last time I would see him. But his departure was memorable. As I watched from that same window, I saw my student step outside the front door to the music building, glance around him in fabricated paranoia, take a deep breath, and then take off like a shotgun down the main road of campus. My last view of him shall forever be running crazily with a violin case in one hand and a Nerf gun in the other.

Earlier this afternoon I played my first Nutcracker show of the season. I’m not doing too many this time around, but I am glad I’m taking part, as it doesn’t really seem like the Christmas season until we’ve had a fight with the Rat King. I did some math during the show, and my very first Nutcracker performance was a whopping twelve years ago. It’s probably my most performed orchestral work, as is the case with many of us in the ballet orchestra. There are two particularly difficult licks in it, and I tested myself today to see how well I could play the entire work with only looking at those two particular licks ahead of time. Pretty well, as it turns out- when you’re that intimately acquainted with a piece like that, you are able to execute it very well the first time, complete with nuances and phrasings you used to have to practice multiple times.

There are absolutely days sometimes where I am just beat. Where the whole week (or month for that matter) has been crazed and hectic, and I long for the next day I have completely off, which is usually too far out on the calendar to think about. But I will say this for my job- it is never going to be routine. I have never had two days exactly alike, and each time I step into a classroom, studio, rehearsal room, or auditorium, I am always on my toes. Whatever experience awaits me in that moment is going to be new. And that’s a gift you get from choosing a career in the arts. They constantly keep you on your game.

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