I WANT TO PLAY
A History of the Santa Fe Community Orchestra
Why write about a community orchestra? To professional musicians we’re hobbyists. The nonmusical community takes us for granted. Music educators see us as an outlet for their students and an aid to their efforts. I write because I believe we are a unique and fascinating organization. What other organization involves bright talented people who support the organization with their efforts and resources only to produce a product that cannot be seen, which exists for a very brief time, and whose complexities are not understood fully by those who produce it?
No business plan, focus group, or grant request preceded the birth of the orchestra. A couple amateur musicians, who didn’t know that starting an orchestra might be difficult, found a willing conductor, recruited a few friends, and made it work. Over the course of 25 years the orchestra has played a hundred concerts and found a place in the musical life of Santa Fe.
All of the hundreds of musicians who have played in the SFCO have their own stories of their lives with music. With a few exceptions, those who play in the orchestra got hooked on an instrument at an early age. Adults, parents, and teachers are always looking for an activity at which children can excel. Those of us who had some talent, who were fortunate enough to find the right music educator, and who got ample social reinforcement for our efforts, found a niche that kept us interested and working diligently to learn our instrument. It worked for me. Through high school, a music education degree, some professional experience, and military duty, music was my life.
For most of us, music was a constant companion as we pursued other careers. There’s plenty of evidence in the literature of music education that musicians are well above average in general ability. And so it is for the members of the orchestra. Physicians, physicists, administrators, we have (or had) stressful jobs, and music is an important counterbalance.
Winston Churchill, in a charming little book, Painting as a Pastime, describes how his painting took him away from the pressures of his high-profile position; being completely absorbed in his hobby gave him no time to think about the urgent demands of state. Musicians in the orchestra, while they do not guide the ship of state, have demanding jobs. There is an autocorrecting phenomenon about playing an instrument: as soon as thoughts about the job creep into our consciousness while we play, we lose concentration and make a mistake. Psychologists might tell us that punishment is ineffective in guiding learning, but we know better. We cannot think about that experiment, a patient, or an important meeting when we play. Playing an instrument is a wonderful way to relax and regroup.
So the reason for writing this book is to give those readers a glimpse of our efforts as amateur musicians. Playing an instrument is a part of my life that I cherish, and I’d like to share my joy with others by writing about our community orchestra.