By Nikhil Basu ‘24 (he/him)

Davidson College Symphony Orchestra members rehearsing in small chamber groups. Photo by Hannah Dugan ‘21.

My name is Nikhil Basu, and I am a first-year student in the Davidson Symphony Orchestra. Before coming to Davidson, I had experience playing in groups ranging from string trios to 100-person community orchestras, but my favorite orchestral memories are of  playing in full-size Symphony Orchestras. As a violist, I sit near the center of the stage, with a wall of brass blasting away behind me and a sea of strings surrounding me on all sides. It is truly the best seat in the house. 

I was excited to attend Davidson in part because I would be able to play in a symphonic setting with even higher standards than I was used to in high school. From domestic and international tours to acclaimed guest soloists, I knew that the Davidson Symphony Orchestra would challenge and inspire me like never before. For now, though, that experience will have to wait. In order to comply with COVID safety guidelines, the Davidson’s Symphony Orchestra is divided into groups of six to eight musicians this semester. My group is a string sextet: two first violins, two second violins, and two violas. 

While we can’t learn grand, complex pieces in our 30-minute, once-a-week rehearsals, one upside of the small group is flexibility. We can pick and choose pieces based on what we are interested in playing instead of committing to a major symphony for weeks or months at a time. The smaller group also forces you to listen to your own playing more than a full orchestra, where your sound can hide in the din of 60 other instruments. And while the head bobs and shoulder shrugs that are crucial to keeping time are difficult to pull off with face masks and social distancing, the added challenge will only make us better performers.

This semester finds the orchestra facing unique challenges, but I’ve come to see them as an opportunity to refine my skills. Even if orchestra is no longer the thrilling experience I am used to, this semester invites us to appreciate the simple joys of life: a miniature folk song, a lighthearted string quartet, and a short break from an extraordinarily stressful time to make music with a few like-minded friends. Every week, we take time out of our schedules filled with classes, homework, practices and meetings to enjoy each other’s company and fill the air with music. It’s a vital, relaxing party of my day. After all, who can say they haven’t smiled a little bit as the melodies of a clarinet or violin serenade them on an afternoon walk across campus? 


Nikhil Basu ‘24 (he/him) is an intended PPE major from Aurora, IL. He can be reached for comment at nibasu@davidson.edu.