Manny Abiad ‘21. Illustration by Richard Farrell‘22

When I was packing the car to move into Davidson I had to choose between squeezing either my Spikeball set or my viola into my car. I left my viola without hesitation. I had been playing viola since I was 11 and had played in ensembles all throughout middle and high school, but I didn’t know if I wanted to continue the grind in college. I brought my ukulele and had easy access to pianos, so I thought any urges I might have to play music would be satisfied even if I wasn’t part of the orchestra.

I quickly realized that I was mistaken. The first Davidson orchestra performance of that year was with guest artists Time for Three, and it slayed big time. It was lively, It was beautiful; players and audience members alike had a wonderful time. I went to support my friends in the ensemble, but I felt myself wishing to be on stage again, remembering what it was like to perform with a group. True to my nature as an “orch dork,” I missed it too much. I had to get back.

I spoke with the director, Dr. Tara Villa Keith, later that year about wanting to join the orchestra and began preparing that summer for auditions for the upcoming semester. Unfortunately, not playing for a full year had really dulled my abilities to play and it took a bit of time to get back into shape. After one very nervous audition I was once again in a symphony orchestra, and after a full year of being a member I have no regrets.

To clarify, I am not studying music outside of playing in DCSO; I always knew I would be studying mathematics and economics and my path has never strayed. Orchestra is the only organization I’m involved with on campus with any component of art and performance, yet I’ve continued to set aside the required time for practice and rehearsal throughout the year. I’m not the best violist in the orchestra and my involvement doesn’t particularly relate to any of the work I’m interested in pursuing, yet I still feel the need to be a part of it.

It was never about the discipline or the drive to develop a mastery for an instrument. What keeps me committed to something that perhaps adds nothing to my professional resume is just the space to express myself creatively without any strings attached. There is no grade in orchestra, just a room full of musicians preparing new material to play for the community.

Many members are music majors, but just as many are not; musicians of all walks of life find a reason to come together. We do what we do because of the bubbly charm of Dr. Keith, the chance to perform, and a simple desire to make music. For those reasons we’ve endured long dress rehearsals, a cruise tour that took out half of our forces with Norovirus, and an absolutely untimely performance on the Sunday of Frolics weekend. Regardless of everything, I love being a violist here.

Manny Abiad ‘21 is a mathematics major/ economics minor from Princeton Junction, NJ.