Dr. Bae, the conductor, raised his hands. It was comforting to know that I had two friends in the orchestra who were about to go through the same piece I was going to go through. But as the lonely Harpist I was tasked with producing the endearing solo which winds about over the general strings of Gustav Mahler’s Adagietto from his Symphony No. 5 in C# Minor. Before agreeing to take on the tricky combinations of duple and triplet notes, which are spattered throughout the measures, I did not know that professional orchestras use this piece as audition repertoire. The entire semester turned out to be a battle against both fear of my incapability and the stress of maintaining my instrument in college. On that fateful evening in April, as Dr. Bae signaled the down beat and the violins delicately entered, I tried to clear my mind and focus only on the waving hands of my conductor as well as the notes ahead of my fingers.
After playing harp for thirteen years, I waffled back and forth about whether or not I should continue playing in college. I took a break for the first semester of Freshman year, but then found myself being drawn back towards the music department. It took me a spring semester of high tensioned encounters with both my own instrument and the orchestra to realize that I was perhaps ready to put harp to the side for the foreseeable future.
The Gordon College Symphony Orchestra did Mahler quite well that evening. In fact, it was the best we had ever played it. I was so relieved though, when I had at last plucked the final chord. I am grateful for the opportunity to play such a beautiful instrument and I will continue to use it in church. However, after so many years of practicing and sore finger tips, I’m ready to relinquish it for another time.