This post is for The Red Dress Club prompt about a school trip. It is memoir, which for me isn’t as easy as fiction. I’d love to get some crit, esp telling me where I might have been able to cut it more.

I’ve never attended a performance at Carnegie Hall, but I have been on stage in front of an audience.

Let me amend that… After our own orchestra performed, we sat in the audience and watched the other two High School orchestras perform. They were good. You have to be good to play at such a prestigious venue.

I always feel a mix of pride and humility when I recount this. I always try to make sure people understand that even though our orchestra from Longmont High School in northern Colorado was good enough to catch the ear of a judge and receive the invitation, I was not there that day. Although I was in the orchestra from fifth grade through my senior year of high school, the one semester I took off due to a schedule conflict was the semester we (they) played for that judge.

I started playing the cello in fifth grade when Ron Grimm came to our school district. I was just a kid at the time, but I do remember that the music department was sparse and not very active. He started with those of us in the lower grades, slowly building the program as we grew up. By the time we were seniors in 1988-1989, we not only had full orchestras at the elementary, junior high and high school levels, but we were good.

I never felt like an Ork Dork as the kids involved in the music department formed numerous interlocking cliques of our own. I had friends; there was no reason to feel left out. In fact, I didn’t even know the term Ork Dork (the orchestral equivalent of band geek) till last year, after re-connecting with Mr. Grimm on facebook. Being involved in the music department also meant numerous trips every year, from all the local performances and competitions, to that final trip to New York City.

It’s odd what memories I do and do not have of that trip. I remember being scared to death on stage, which might be the only time in my life I felt stage fright as I was so used to performing. But we knew that Carnegie Hall was a big deal. We knew we had to live up to the expectations of not only those who invited us to play, but those teachers and parents who got us there. I don’t remember much at all of the actual performance, or of the other two orchestras performing that night. I remember that we had to rent cellos because they were too big to bring with us. I remember Paula, my best friend and concertmistress, freaking out about her violin. She did that a lot. I remember lying on the floor of what I think was the lobby of Rockefeller Center, as there was a really beautiful ceiling and lying down gave us a better view.

I remember walking through Greenwich Village after dress rehearsal, all twenty something of us still in our formal black concert dresses. I remember eating at Mama Leone’s, and someone had the bright idea of asking the strolling musicians to serenade Mr. Grimm with “Oh My Papa.” It was on or near Father’s Day, and Mr. Grimm was like a father to us in many ways. Most of us had seen him almost every day of our lives for the last eight years.

I remember that the trip happened after we seniors had graduated. I remember that it was the last time I picked up a cello. College beckoned, and there was no room in my busy life for the commitment of full orchestra. I don’t regret that decision, although I do wonder how my life might have been different if I’d made the room.

And I wonder today if any of that old muscle memory is still there, twenty years later…

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