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Confessions of a former bad student: how group music took the “FRIGHT” out of me

Confessions of a former bad student: how group music took the “FRIGHT” out of me

“Confessions of a Former Bad Student” is a series by Miss Haleigh — Learning Allegro teacher, orchestra violinist, and former bad student.

I never celebrated Halloween growing up. I went trick-or-treating exactly twice in my life: once when I was two (my parents, kind souls, ate the candy on my behalf) and once when I was fourteen (when my parents felt badly for eating my candy and sent me out into the world to get my own).


I was never big on the whole “getting scared” thing. Halloween and horror movies sounded like as much fun as an appendectomy.


But whether you’re two or two hundred, the world is full of frightening things. For me, as a former bad student, one of those frightening things was…wait for it…recitals.


Growing up, I was incredibly self-conscious whenever I had to play violin or piano for another person. I honestly can’t explain why. Looking back, I think part of it was that I was always incredibly eager to please–and as any parent or teacher can tell you, the violin does NOT sound pleasing at first. Between bad practice habits and my own self-consciousness, recitals were torture.


Even lessons were awful at times. In high school, I switched violin instructors, and at my first lesson with that teacher, I literally cried. And I was a teenager. Talk about embarrassing! (You can verify this story with Wendy, the founder of Learning Allegro; she was that teacher. And she’s not at all scary.)


I started private violin lessons when I was four years old. I switched teachers four or five times and played in a number of recitals. But many of those recitals weren’t exactly fun.


But believe it or not, after a few years, I did ditch the stage fright. And learning to play with a group was a big part of that change.


During my junior year of high school, Wendy encouraged me to audition for a local youth orchestra. Since my school didn’t have a music program, I had had very little experience playing in groups, but I decided to give it a shot.


The fear factor definitely came with me to auditions. My hands were shaking so much that the conductor stopped me and asked if I was okay. But somehow, I made the cut–and at that first rehearsal, I totally fell in love with playing in groups.


Instead of focusing on the soloists, orchestra focused on the unit. We were taught to listen for each other and to play our parts well while remaining sensitive to the dozens of other melodies happening around us. I made great friends who also loved music–some with way more talent than me and some who were just getting started in the music world.


But most importantly, playing in a group gave me, the shy musician, a chance to fade into the background and actually take in the music.


Private lessons were great, but the focus was always Haleigh front and center. Orchestra wasn’t about me; it was about playing something beautiful and working together to make it sound great.


Today, I continue to play in a local orchestra. I’ve been a member of Immaculata Symphony for seven seasons, and it continues to be something I truly enjoy. I also play in a number of other settings, including for weddings and at my church–and yes, I play alone.


And the best part is, as I grew more comfortable in my group setting, I stopped “getting scared” of performing solo. Playing in a group gave me a new appreciation for music itself–and now, instead of thinking of people staring at me, I can play for my own enjoyment, no matter who is watching or who is standing beside me.







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