Me and my violin: reflections on graduation

By The Beacon | February 27, 2014 1:13am

Kathryn Walters |

Being a senior in college is weird. Amid experiencing crippling senioritis, feeling excited one moment and panicked the next and coming up with evasive yet thoughtful answers to the dreaded question, “So what are you doing after graduation” (seriously, stop asking. Once I know, you’ll know), I’ve become very reflective about the last 17 years of my life spent in the world of academia. Soon, I’ll be leaving it, at least for the foreseeable future, and the thought seriously scares me.

As I walk across that stage in May to receive my diploma, I won’t just be walking away from the only life I’ve known since I was 5 years old. I’ll be walking away from one of the best friends of my life: my violin.

I’ve played violin since I was 7, and other than my loving family, that delicately carved piece of wood has been the one constant in my life and has come to define me in ways I could have never imagined 15 years ago when I picked up my first quarter-sized rental.

Since elementary school, I’ve been “that girl who plays violin.” I’ve played in countless orchestras and ensembles, taken hundreds of private lessons and given lessons of my own. I’ve toted my violin thousands of miles, from home in California to Washington, D.C. for a national orchestra festival in high school to Portland for college. I’ve practiced scales, arpeggios and etudes until my fingertips are gray from pressing into my strings and my arms, back and brain ache.

Because it’s been such a constant presence in my life, it’s easy to forget how much of an impact music has on me. I was reminded of how much I love music this past weekend at UP’s Orchestra concert, where we performed Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.” It was by far one of our best concerts in all my four years here, and I wish I could describe how great it feels to have a piece click within an ensemble, to have everyone performing to the best of their ability, to create powerful and tangible emotion without saying a word. I do believe in the power of words, but there’s something about music that defies language. When words fail, music speaks.

Once I graduate in May, I’m not going to have easy access to playing in an orchestra. Of course, I can continue playing on my own or join a community group, but it won’t be the same. There won’t be that same sense of community in a group of adults who get together periodically to play music and then go home and it’s as if nothing happened. In a school orchestra, you’re always surrounded by your immediate peers. Yes, you might rehearse only once a week, but you’re still around the same people outside orchestra, whether it’s in classes or your group of friends. There’s a real sense of camaraderie in creating beautiful music for yourself and others to enjoy.

Of course, not all is sunshine and roses with me and my violin. Like most musicians, I hate practicing, and my friends can attest to the number of times I’ve complained about going to orchestra rehearsal when I’d prefer to stay home. But these complaints came from a place of privilege - until now, I’ve always taken it for granted that I have a talent for music and that I’ve always been involved with some kind of orchestra. It’s only now, when I’m so close to losing what I’ve had for the majority of my life, that I realize how significant the void will be.

What this all boils down to is that college is a time when you should take advantage of everything available to you. You have four years to soak up as much as possible from this place, and you should live for every moment. Realizing that now, I would have complained less about going to rehearsal and appreciated the precious time that I had with my instrument. But for the rest of this semester, I’m determined - literally and figuratively - to end things on a high note.

Kathryn Walters is a senior sociology major. She can be reached at