Monday, August 11, 2008
One decade ago with NUS Symphony Orchestra
Ten years ago, on a rainy day in August, I was trying to find my way to Centre for the Arts to attend the Welcome Tea of NUS Symphony Orchestra. I met A who was also going to the same event, and we braved the rain with an umbrella and eventually found our way there.
I had only planned to attend the Welcome Tea to learn more about the orchestra. I learnt from the Welcome Tea that potential members have to attend an audition and pass it before being accepted as a member.
My background then was that I had only played in Chinese Orchestras. Prior to attending the Welcome Tea, I had found out that there would be some form of music tuition provided to members of the orchestra. Furthermore, the double bass tutor of NUS Symphony Orchestra was a very established double bass player. On the contrary, the tutor teaching the Chinese Orchestra's cello and double bass section was a cellist by training. Hoping very much to improve my playing of the double bass, I decided to try to get a chance to be a member of the NUS Symphony Orchestra instead of the Chinese Orchestra.
One of the seniors invited me to play in the orchestra immediately after the Welcome Tea. I was not prepared for that at all! Anyway, I mustered courage to accept the invitation, and the senior helped get a bow and a double bass for me. Despite trying hard to play as much as possible, I could only manage to play about 20% of what was printed on the scores then. Compared to playing in Chinese Orchestra where the double bass player plays largely tonic and dominant notes, the double bass player in a Symphony Orchestra plays much more challenging parts. I started having doubts if I could pass the audition.
Nevertheless, I decided to just go for the audition. Seriously, I think I had played pretty not quite in tune during the audition. However, thankfully, the conductor felt I had the awareness that I have to improve my intonation, and he gave me a chance to take double bass lessons to improve my playing. Yeah! I finally secured the chance to join the university's Symphony Orchestra.
I worked pretty hard to improve my playing because one of the first works that I have to performed during my first concert with NUS Symphony Orchestra was Brahms' First Symphony. As such, especially during my first year in university, whenever there was a long break between my lessons, I would make my way to Centre for the Arts and practise on the double bass. Back then, I don't own a double bass of my own. Basically, Centre for the Arts became the place in the university that I had spent much of the time in, other than my faculty's building.
Reflecting, I am pleased to say that my playing on the double bass has improved over this one decade. The credit goes to the orchestra's double bass tutor for his inspiring and patient guidance. I have the conductor to thank for taking the risk to accept me even though I did not do exceptionally well during the audition. Playing in the NUS Symphony Orchestra had enriched my life as a student of the university, and provided me some respite from the challenges that life had presented.