The Thankful Project: Day 5

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Welcome back to The Thankful Project! After an exciting evening spent dropping my car off at the mechanic and taking Gershwin to the vet, I am finally home and relaxing a bit before bed. Let's get to it!

Day 5: A talent

True confession: I am the worst at acknowledging my talents/accomplishments. In fact, just saying "my talents" makes me feel icky. This is not an easy post to write, mainly because the entire concept makes me uncomfortable. But... I'm doing it anyway. 

If I had to pick a talent that I'm most thankful for, I would have to go with my musical abilities. As a little girl, my Mom-Mom taught me to play the piano and read music. I started taking lessons at 7 and continued until I was 18. I played off and on in college, and now I teach lessons to 2 adorable kids. I loved the piano. My mom never had to tell me to practice... rather, she asked me to stop playing because every time I walked by, I sat down and played. 

When I was in 6th grade, I decided that I wanted to play the viola. Not the violin, the viola. Don't ask me what possessed 11-year-old-Alison to pick the weird instrument. I'm going to chalk it up to "everything else about me was weird, why not add something else". Anyway, I started playing the viola. I totally sucked for about 3 months. Then I got the hang of it and started taking real lessons and I kept playing through high school, got scholarships to college, and now play in a local symphony. 

In 9th grade, my best friend's dad was the band director at the high school and he wanted me to be in the marching band. I said that I didn't play any band instruments and he asked what I wanted to play. I randomly picked the clarinet, he handed me the instrument, and I learned how to play in 2 weeks. Later that year, I was accepted into the wind ensemble. He asked if I wanted to switch to French Horn; I joyfully said yes, because something inside me wanted to learn all of the instruments. (Okay, that's a lie. I had no desire to play the sax, the trombone, or the trumpet.) I tried the bassoon (too big, but I loved the sound), the flute (couldn't really make a noise very well), and the oboe (squeaky!) I seriously loved the French Horn and it was one of the harder instruments I learned. 

In 10th grade, I fell in love with the Celtic harp, and for my 16th birthday, my entire family chipped in and I was gifted with one at my birthday dinner (in a restaurant where the woman who became my harp teacher was performing). The harp was, by far, the most difficult instrument I tackled, and to be perfectly honest, I never became super proficient. Fortunately for me, almost anything sounds pretty on the harp, so even the simplest of tunes is quite lovely. 

Throughout elementary, middle, high school, and college, I always sang and was part of various choirs. In college, I was awarded scholarships and got to perform solo works with the college chorus and the vocal jazz ensemble. I also performed with my university's all-female a capella group (which was... an interesting experience, to say the least). In college, I took voice lessons (which were really fun... and REALLY frustrating) and really got to work out my voice in a way I hadn't before. 

Music and my talent for music has given me the ability to bring joy to others, to make money, to support my education, and most importantly, to make some of the best friendships in my life. The two other musicians in my trio, Julie and Mike, are amazing people who I love and admire both as musicians and people. I met Mike, a phenomenal cellist, in 6th grade and I'm set to be the "best man" at his wedding next August. I met Julie in college, and I knew instantly that she was a talented violinist that I wanted to perform with, so I asked her to play in a quartet in college. She's one of my best friends, was one of my bridesmaids, and I can't imagine the crazy adventures of wedding performances without her. I went to summer strings camp in middle school (because I was a gigantic dork) and met so many people there who were not only incredible musicians, but seriously amazing people. 

Singing in the Drexel Chorus allowed me to meet Victoria, who became one of my best friends. I seriously don't think I would have survived vocal jazz without her, and I know for certain that I would still be lost in Delaware if she hadn't been in my car for every gig we ever did. Scientists say that singing in a choir changes your brain. I totally agree, and I say that even more than that, it changes your heart. You seriously bond with the people who sing, practice, play, and perform with you. You laugh at the insane things your director/chamber coach/professor says. You borrow pencils, practice tricky passages, and ask how the hell you say that word in German again. You trade bowings, write out rhythms, and support each other when you want to throw the music down the hall and smash the metronome with a hammer. Sometimes, you even call your mom so she can help you zip your friend into a dress 10 minutes before the concert starts (that actually happened to me, and yes, that friend who called her mom was Julie). You sit together before auditions, keep each others' hands warm, send all the good vibes in the world, and check the lists of who made it afterwards. You celebrate together, you cry together, you work together to bring music to life that moments before, were black spots on a page. Ensembles, when they're great, take on a life of their own and become a living, breathing organism. It's amazing and to date, I haven't found anything to replicate it.

So yes. Musical talent, my musical talent, is something for which I'm eternally grateful. Without it, I would have missed out on all of these experiences and people, and because of it, my life is so much richer. 

What's a talent that you're thankful for? Leave it in the comments, and check out Chasing Happy's link up!

- A


  1. I think it is great you learnt the harp - I am a total musical failure as I tried to learn the flute and just could not get it al all!


    1. The flute is really hard! I tried that in high school... wasn't for me!

  2. You're right, there's something about singing with people for so long that sings you close together - I wouldn't trade any of it for the world. Also, yes, voice lessons (if you're talking about the ones with DP) were REALLY frustrating - I would always mess up during juries. Throw in key changes, miss words, miss transitions. Goodness gracious. Then 5 minutes later I could sing it perfectly. SO frustrating. I'm glad for your musical talent too, that's how we met :) - cue the awwwws.

    1. Awwwww, indeed!

      Also, DP voice lessons were so hard! I remember once during a jury, Becky started singing my piece to me b/c I forgot it. SO embarrassing.


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