By my senior year of college there was one person at school who I could rely on to help me get through everything. She worked as my co-section leader (and I wish she could actually write down that she was). She was my confidant, she was an amazing piccolo player, with a soft sweet sound, and she was my best friend there. It’s a funny thing to say, because our relationship started out rocky to say the least (and I can’t help but smile at the number of times I remember her apologizing for how our relationship started). I have a memory for these things and I tend to relive them in great detail, but here it will be only a broad over-view.
We met freshman year of college. We were the two new freshman in a section of older, less warm girls. They accepted my friend immediately, me, not so much. However, we worked together a lot that year. We played duets, were in classes together, saw each other in rehearsals, but I was the odd one and she was the accepted one (no apologizing! 😉 ). Sophomore year, things began to change. We had a whole new group of freshmen and had let go some of the older members of the section. I was made co-principal flute, and to my long-standing frustration, my friend remained at the back of the section. I still remember as the section crumbled around our ears our first two quarters of school. No matter what anyone did there was a cattiness and a cruelty that seemed to have solidified. Then one of the older members had enough and sent an e-mail and the ice began to thaw. I still remember the car ride when it thawed for us. My friend drove me back to the dorm after a rehearsal one night and we talked for the first time…ever! We saw some of the same problems and I think it began to light a fire for both of us, at least to see how we could fix the section in years to come.
Our junior year was another bout of challenges, but they were less hard for me because I had a friend I could rely on. We had all our classes together junior year and immediately we were friends. I remember nearly jumping out of my skin, I was so happy, when I saw she had moved up in our section! Suddenly, our section was doing things together and enjoying each others company. Whether it was going to the cafeteria, or a 21st sparkling-grape-juice birthday, or any number of other things, the 12 of us were hanging out and enjoying each others company! And my friend and I really started to become friends. We’d stay two hours after fraternity meetings talking. Sometimes about school, sometimes about friends, sometimes about home, but most often about books. It turned out we both had a veracious appetite for reading and reading similar genres. The more we got to know each other the more we realized we had in common.
Our senior year was different. I will always remember the very long heart-to-heart we had one afternoon before school started. It was something I wish we’d done sooner because it would have helped me understand things, but I’ll also always understand why we didn’t. Together, my friend and I lead a section, that I think, we should still feel very proud of, got through student teaching, were roommates on our final college tour together, and she helped me through a couple of rougher patches. My best friend dropped out of college our senior year and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with, but there was my friend, helping me through it. When I went through my first round of pre-screening tapes and auditions for grad. school, there was my friend at my side. We learned so much from each other and she made me smile and had a fantastic way of pointing out my weaknesses to help me make them strengths.
Our lives have lead us on different paths now. She’s teaching and loving every minute of it. I’m, obviously, a flute performance major and loving every minute of it. We’ve gone through a lot together and learned a lot from each other. We don’t talk as often as we used to, we’re both busy, but when we do, it’s like we’ve never been apart. At college we always played an encore of Irish Tune from County Derry by Percy Grainger. I never cried when I was in college, there was nothing I cared about there (notice I said nothing). On our very first concert in grad school this year we played Irish Tune. For the first time, I wept. There’s very little I miss from college but there are a few people. Listening to Wind Ensemble play it this year, I was reminded of my friend and I, sharing the solo our senior year, me, laughing, her sobbing. I missed her then, I missed her terribly and I called and told her so. It was the good kind of missing, though. The kind that makes you smile when you’re crying. Happy birthday, my dear friend! Thank you for the smiles, the memories, and the lessons! May we have many more.