Do you have a tough time figuring out what you want to do when you grow up? Well, I certainly did.

I was very active in Music since I was four years old. My first instrument was the Violin after being infected with Mairead Nesbit’s Lord of the Dance performance. Over my childhood years, I became experimental with other instruments such as the Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Percussion, Trumpet, Handbells, Singing, and Piano. I started the flute when I was 12 years old but didn’t play in the school bands since I was too worried about the stereotype of playing a girly instrument. Overall, I was a band geek.

Newspaper headlines - financial crisis on 2008
Newspaper headlines – financial crisis on 2008

After high school, I wanted to become a music educator. I attended Keene State College for two years. During my time at Keene, the past financial crisis of 2008 came into play. The news was buzzing about individuals losing their 401K’s and receiving their pink slips. As a college student, this was very discouraging and was questioning my path in music. Not only did the crisis appear, but my interest in Keene State was fading and felt like I was not going anywhere.

During high school, I was interested in Science -, especially in Biology. I looked into the laboratory science and found that UMass Lowell offered a program in Medical Technology. I applied to the program and was accepted.

The Medical Technologist/Medical Laboratory Scientist is a respected professional — a member of the health care team. The Technologist provides patient care through the performance of a wide variety of laboratory analyses and procedures in the areas of clinical chemistry, hematology, microbiology, immunology, immunohematology (blood bank), urinalysis and body fluids (Austin Peay State, 2015).

I believed that this would be a great field to study in and I knew that I would be guaranteed a job after I graduated. Then reality came to me.

bad-gradeSwitching from Music to Medicine was a tough transition. My first semester grades were atrocious to where my highest grade was a C minus. I had written warnings from the MT Department that if I did not boost my grades up to a 2.5 GPA, I would be kicked out of the program. I continued to study, study, and research. No matter how much I put my brain into those books, my tests would backlash at me. After the second year of the MT program, I was kicked out unless I petitioned to the MT faculty that I belonged in the program. Fortunately, I was brought back into the program and was on probation for a semester. If my grades didn’t improve, I would be out for good.

Again, I studied, studied, and studied some more, but still struggled to get my grades up. The Med Tech program was the hardest major in the school. I wanted to wave my white flag and surrender.

By the time of November of 2011, I lost hope and was ready to give up. My friend, Nicole, invited me to a Boston Symphony Concert the day after Thanksgiving. I attended a Boston Pops concert before in 2005. I loved the show but didn’t inspire me that much. This concert was going to be my first Boston Symphony performance in my life. We get to our seat in the Second Balcony, left. We see the conductor, Ludovic Morlot, in the corner’s of our eyes and see the rest of the orchestra on the right. The program to be performed was John Harribson Symphony No. 4, Ravel Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2, and Gustav Mahler Symphony No. 1.

As we are ready to hear some music, the oboe tunes the orchestra. The lights come down and walk out the conductor onto his podium. As he waits for silence, he raises his arms, looks to the orchestra, and starts the music.

The first movement of Symphony No. 4 wildly starts with the winds and strings with atonality titled Fanfare. The orchestra filled up their sound in every inch of Symphony Hall. The second movement was a mysterious sounding piece. The third was a sarcastic (Scherzo) feel that was oddly joyous. The fourth movement was a slow-moving but yet almost easy to listen. The final movement was reminiscent of the other movements of the piece.

LudovicConductingRavel’s Daphnis and Chloe was up next. The music starts off very softly with the colorful writing in the winds and string sections. The article continued to show beautiful expression and adaptation to what the composer wrote. In the middle section, Elizabeth Rowe’s flute solo captivated myself and the audience, leaving my experience in awe. The other flutists, Clint Foreman (Second Flute and Second Piccolo), Elizabeth Ostling (Alto Flute), and Cynthia Myers (Piccolo), blended in unison with Rowe. The final section performed with exuberance; filled with energy and excitement.

The last piece of the performance was Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. Nicole told me that this was her favorite composer and thrilled to hear it live. At first, I had no idea who Gustav Mahler was. I only knew Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Handel. Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 reflects his love for nature, which is evident in the first movement with the strings painting the silence and calm sounds of nature’s works. The second movement is a trio form and has a Dolce feel, almost like waltzing to an Austrian dance. The third movement is slow and haunting to the ear. The extra-musical idea behind it is that of a hunter’s funeral and a procession of animals that follows. Not only is this a sad-like movement, but Mahler uses the Nursery Rhyme classic, Frère Jacques, and write it in a minor key (D Minor). The final movement is the most expensive. It brings back the first movement and unifies it as a whole. The brass section of the BSO explores the hall with their majestic tone. The ending concludes with a dominant D major chord and imitates the coo-coo clock with the final two notes written.

I could not tell you how that performance made me feel. I felt the adrenaline rushing through my veins; my imagination was on fire; pretending to be on that stage with the musicians. I left the hall with an epiphany; if the musician’s worked hard to get to Symphony Hall, why couldn’t I? I was raving about the concert to my friend Nicole after getting lunch and blowing up my status on Facebook.

I told the MT department that med tech wasn’t my path anymore. I explained to them that I had to go back music, and gladly, they understood.

I switched to be in the Music Business program at UML. With that, I had tremendous help from one of my private teachers, Sarah Brady, who kicked my ass into shape before auditioning into the program. I’ve learned a lot from taking classes about the Music Industry, such as royalty payments to songwriters and publisher, copyrighting and publishing, merchandising, marketing, PR, and more. I was lucky enough to land a principal flute seat in the school’s orchestra in my last year. I knew that majoring in Music Business was not an afterthought.

After finishing my classes, I was lucky enough to work for Monadnock Music, a summer music festival in Peterborough, NH. After that, I applied for an internship with the BSO’s press office. I landed an interview and was awarded the job for a semester. Working in the PR department was an excellent experience regarding how press releases worked, how to set up a press conference, research music, and how to promote the symphony. Now as a grad student studying PR, I am learning more about the industry and hope to work for a professional symphony and to inspire others like I was four years ago.

Andris Nelson conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra in his ingural concert as music Director, 9/27/14. Photo by Chris Lee
Andris Nelson conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra in his inaugural concert as music Director, 9/27/14. Photo by Chris Lee

So what did I learn? I feared my passions and interests down the road. I worried too much about what was to come. Sometimes I couldn’t think of myself and needed advice from others. I doubted my voice and what I wanted in my life. Going to the Boston Symphony Orchestra slapped me in the face, and my voice began to ring again saying,”What are you doing, Alex? This is your passion. Your life is music. It’s time to shut off your doubts and what others think about what you should do. You know what you want to do. Reach out for it one way or another.” The BSO saved my life’s future and career choice.

So, if you are having doubts, listen to what YOU want. Examine your talents and put them to use. Block that negativity in your life. If your dream is a challenging path, then work hard to get there. The phrase “follow your dreams” is a cliche, but I don’t believe it that for a second. Put your mind to it. You will eventually live your dream and feel like you never worked a day in your life and never think you chose a path that is an afterthought.

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3 thoughts on “How the Boston Symphony Orchestra Saved My Life.

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