Here it is, folks. My last Christmas at Luther season. Tonight was my last first performance, and I also gave my senior talk, per Symphony tradition. I only cried a little and managed to relate (hopefully) some wisdom and thanks to my fellow orchestra members. The following is what I spoke about in a nutshell.
When I was making my college decision four years ago, I had applied to Luther based on what I had heard of the music program and the fact that it was an ELCA-affiliated school. Being from Washington, I had only been to the Midwest twice when I was very young, so Iowa seemed a little foreign to me. With my other college choices much closer to home, by February of my senior year, I was still waffling on my choice. I had the Luther itch, and I just needed to see it for myself. My mom and I visited for a weekend, and even though it was the bitterest cold I had ever experienced, I immediately warmed to Luther. I cannot describe what it was, it was simply a calling that I needed to be there.
For months, I felt at peace with my decision, despite the puzzled and surprised looks when I answered the ever-present question, “What are you doing next year?” Then, the night before I left for Luther, all the anxiety hit. Questions leaked into my brain, bringing doubts with them. “What if it’s not the same as I remember? What if I hate it? What if I get homesick?” Of course, from the time I became a member of Symphony, I was fully reassured and I have not looked back since.
I also shared my favorite moment of any piece I have ever played. Can you guess it? The silence after the last chord but before the audience starts clapping. Maybe that sounds strange, but if one were able to bottle that silence, I feel that it would be a summary of all the emotions portrayed throughout the piece. If you are playing the Firebird Suite, you feel relief at not leaving a finger behind somewhere along the way. If you are playing “Pelleas and Melisande,” you feel an overwhelming sense of peace. If you are ending a Christmas at Luther performance, you feel pure joy. And, without a doubt, there is always a twinge of melancholy, that maybe this is the last time you get to be in such a moment, or the last time you will be surrounded by this many musicians singing praise. In any combination, it is all those moments and more that I will carry with me long after Sunday.