A Musician’s Purpose

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

As an outspoken Asian girl with an unusually large number of freckles and the tone of a strong alto, I am generally very noticeable. I had always felt very comfortable with the people around me considering that I had been with the same group of friends since elementary school. Naturally, when I broke away from that group and joined an out-of-school orchestra for the first time in my life, I never expected to be faced with the exact opposite. Here, unexpectedly, I would be invisible.

Lost in such a huge group and completely out of my element, I was hidden in the back of a sea of strangers. I was overwhelmed with the music and the orchestra in general, keeping mostly to myself and only really talking to my stand partner when necessary. The more I saw how experienced and talented everyone else seemed to be, the more self conscious I felt about my playing especially since this music was more difficult than anything I had played before. I practiced for hours on end to learn the new pieces, improving slowly yet still feeling as if I was working harder than the others just to keep up.

Preoccupied with what I considered my less than satisfactory performance, I found it difficult to truly lose myself in the music. It was so frustrating that I was failing to reach perfection, and it hindered my confidence to the point where I was painfully self-aware of every off-pitch note, every rushed beat. I had previously treasured the privilege of sharing music with the world, and yet orchestra now seemed like an obstacle, a source of stress and anxiety.

However, the summer after that year was a special one—the orchestra was going to Spain. We left in late June to explore the wonders of Barcelona, Zaragoza, and Madrid, performing at different venues in each city. At our last concert of the tour, we performed a Spanish classic called Bésame Mucho and by the end of the piece, the entire audience was singing along. Across the stage, I caught the gaze of my closest friends, beaming as we stood and bowed together while the audience cheered their bravos. A man approached us after the concert to express that our performance had brought him to tears with the emotional reminder of his childhood, and we knew for certain that we had shared something deeply special with him.

Not a single person cared to think of our mistakes.

That day, I realized that I had forgotten why I joined orchestra—I had forgotten the reason why violin was my passion and my safe place. Caught up in an anxious need for perfection, I had lost what music meant to me. It wasn’t about mechanically going through notes, grazing just the surface level of music; it reached further than that. Music has depth and meaning, a simple purpose: to share a feeling with others. When I practice, I focus less on technicalities and more on creating a better experience together between orchestra and audience. I was finally confident and comfortable with myself as a member of the orchestra, celebrating the music rather than stressing over my failure to reach perfection.

Over the last couple of years, I have grown closer with the orchestra and have been able to open up to my peers through the music. We are able to work together to create something beautiful, something that leaves every present individual breathless with the impact of raw, pure emotion. As a violinist, I have improved technically, but more importantly I have improved my mindset. Orchestra is not just about me or the notes on the paper, it is about bringing music to life as part of a team—and I could not be prouder of what we have achieved.

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