Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.


Vignettes of a Symphony

It was almost four years ago, an amber-lit Monday evening, and Mikaela and I were impossibly early to the rehearsal. I was sixteen, a violin slung over my back, rehearsing for the first time with the Southwest Washington Symphony. That night I watched people chatting and slapping each other on the back with laughter—people who had known each other for twenty or forty years and played together for the same, and I wondered if I would ever get to know them. It’s been four years, but my twenty-two introductions of that night are starting to blossom into people that I smile and chat with in Fred Meyer’s, make music with once a week, and will be playing another concert with on April 9 (see sidebar for more info).

There was the Doctor, whom I met that first night while waiting nervously for Papa to pick us up. The place was beginning to be deserted, and this sweet old man toted his cello over to where Mikaela and I stood. “Do you have a ride?” he asked, and then waited gallantly with us almost ten minutes until Papa arrived (we didn’t yet have the pick-up time down to a science). During that ten minutes, I discovered that he was one of the founders of the symphony forty years earlier: he played trombone, but when he learned the cello he had to have a place to play, so he and some others started up the symphony. Then they had to have a place to perform, so they did the logical thing and refurbished the vintage theater in town. But of course! Every middle-aged man should start a symphony and a theater in his lifetime. We said good night when our suburban pulled up to the curb, but over the years I’ve discovered other interesting facts about the Doctor: he also experiments with creating new varieties of rhododendrons on his vast acreage. “It takes about seven years from seed before they flower, though, so I create the variety and then have to wait years before I can even see what it looks like,” he told me. A dear man, from his always-handy handkerchief to his small cello and black bow-hair, everything is just perfectly him!

And then there’s the Lady, as we used to call her before we discovered her real name. In the days before we discovered her name, we also had some misconceptions about her. For example, we somehow had the idea that she was strict. Mama was trying to get through the back door of the concert hall to see us, but a man warned her, “No, I just tried, and the Lady is guarding the door, so you can’t get in. Here’s how I’ll smuggle you in, though…” (-: An honorary member, the Lady doesn’t even play an instrument, but she recently won a statewide award for “Friend of Music in Washington State.” Her daughter plays in the symphony, and the Lady comes faithfully to every single rehearsal and concert with a smile of delight as she listens to the music and busily crochets fabulous creations.

Not all the symphony members are older—there are a few kids our age, but they usually cycle through before going off to college. One, a young man with well-gelled hair whom I had known for years since playing with him in a youth symphony, told me he couldn’t wait to get out of our town—he would never want to live here. I looked around at all the lovely people, instruments in hand, and couldn’t help feeling he was so focused he was blind: he didn’t know what he was missing!

The Mayor (currently a city council member) was a man I talked with frequently, without even being aware of this title, and when I discovered it, my eyes widened just a little. It’s handy, however, having a direct line to the Mayor every week, as evidenced by those who would voice concerns to him during the break. Once, the stand partner of the Concertmaster was gone, and the Concertmaster invited the Mayor to move up and sit with him. Despite the fact that the Mayor had played in the symphony since its founding, he shook his head vehemently and whispered, only half-jokingly, “No—I’m too afraid!” So, brave Mikaela took the spot instead. Speaking of the Concertmaster, he’s a lovely man, impeccable violinist, and just happens to be a gastroenterologist. Mmmhmm, that’s what I said. It took him quite a while to be able to tell Mikaela and I apart, and he would noticeably pause and say, “Um, the, uh, [insert last name here] Sisters…” Something with bangs finally did the trick, and he either fakes it really well now, or really can tell us apart, but I’ll never quite be sure which!

The Conductor is another man you really must meet. Always clad in some shade of black, grey, or purple, he is one of the rare breed of conductors who can actually sing the instruments’ parts beautifully (for all conductors try, but only a few succeed). French horn missing? No problem, Conductor sings away. Just last week he came to rehearsal a bit stiff, however, and revealed a huge white bandage around his middle. “So,” he says, by way of explanation, “I was conducting a 140-woman choir in Spokane last week, and they couldn’t all see me. So I stood on a chair, but they still couldn’t quite see me. So I stacked a chair on top of a chair, and that was perfect…until the end of the concert when I tipped my weight forward, crashed down, and the chairs toppled over on top of me.” He rubbed his bruised ribs with a grimace and promised to do a lot of conducting with his pinky finger. In pain halfway through the rehearsal, he pulled up a stool for himself when a wise-cracking bass player shouted: “No! Please don’t stand on the stool!”

With all these wonderful people, how could you not have fun? We naturally split into groups, sort of like Facebook except with real people, not virtual pictures. The baldheaded men always have an alliance and a running joke. The strings and winds, of course, tend not to associate with each other, for who could imagine such a thing? And the Concertmaster is always the most popular man of the day, with a circle of people wondering about bowings, sectionals, dress code, call time, parking, comp tickets, and too much more.

So there you have it: Vignettes of a Symphony. Which, when you come right down to it, is really just an Anne Shirley-esque way of saying: Confessions of a People Watcher. But in my mind, these vignettes are also etched in the sepia picture I once saw, one that was taken in the founding year. Each of these people were about forty years younger, with less gray in their hair and wisdom in their eyes, wearing circle skirts, cat-eye glasses, and slick suits; the men sported sleek, glossy hair, and the women a bouffant. The Doctor and the Mayor and many others I could mention were all standing tall, instruments in hand, smiles adorning each face in a familiar “is-this-the-last-one?” expression, their vignettes captured forever by camera.

Picture Credit


  1. That sounds like it's a lot of fun! Your descriptions are perfect and make the various people come alive. Very well written.

  2. Wow, this sounds like a really wonderful experience.
    I play violin, but I'm still taking lessons and haven't gone anywhere with it yet (though I plan on teaching my siblings in the near future).
    How did you get into this Symphony stuff? Where do you start? (I'm fairly new to your blog, so I haven't followed your story for very long)

    I'm really enjoying all your posts! I'm so glad I found you (through Jasmine Baucham).


  3. Lauren, every time you post I think, man she is so much like me! At least personality-wise, it seems. :)
    I love to peoplewatch too--my very favorite places to be are almost all places with LOTS of people like the MN state fair or the I can watch everyone and make up stories about them in my mind. :) I love peoples. And I love God, who made everyone so different and interesting.

    Your profiles were wonderful and very vivid. You are a great writer girl!
    Kelsey :o)

  4. Well, first I have to say that each of your comments was a treasure to me! Thanks for your all-around sweetness, girls! You are all so encouraging!
    Charae--it absolutely is a lot of fun! I enjoy it so much!
    Penn--I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog--it's fun to read your comments! And yay! a fellow violin player! I teach one of my siblings, among other students, and it is so delightful and wonderful! As far as how I got into the symphony...our community had a great youth symphony which I joined when I was 14. You had to audition and pay, but it was the training grounds for me to learn everything about playing in a group, which is quite different than soloing. If you don't have an opportunity like that, at least try to get together with family or friends who are musicians and do small quartets or something. Our family does a quintet, and it's great to teach younger siblings about playing in a group!
    Then, to join the SWWA symphony, I asked my teacher at the time, who was in the symphony, if she thought I was ready, and she wrote a letter of recommendation to the concertmaster asking if I (and Mikaela) could join. I had to audition (a nerve-wracking experience!) and start in the back of the second violins, but I have enjoyed every minute! If your community doesn't have a symphony, you could easily organize nights with friends to simply play your hearts out together!
    Kelsey--thanks so much for your sweet encouragement! I love that you think our personalities are so much alike--what fun! My people-watching can be bad sometimes, because I'll just be intent on an eccentric person, and all of a sudden I'll realize that I'm staring at them. (-; Or Mikaela and I will spot something at the same time and look at each other with an expression like, "That is going in the writer's notebook of people to remember!" And, yes, isn't God so creative? Beyond my imagination!

  5. Lauren, what a delightful post! I loved all of your descriptions - they made me wish I was there sitting in the audience, enjoying some beautiful music and delighting in watching all of the various musicians and their instruments. I hope the upcoming performance goes well!
    I too love to watch people, study them and also wonder about their stories.
    Kelsey, our family has been known to go to the airport - not because we are going anywhere or expecting anyone, but because we also enjoy watching people and it is a fun place to just hang out. : )

  6. Thanks so much for the advice. I would like to "play our hearts out together" with friends. I'll have to give it some thought (as all of my friends are better musicians than I, and I'm a very nervous performer, that isn't as easy as it might sound)

    Thank you for answering my question. =)


  7. Such a fun post to read! People-watching should be listed among the top hobbies...sometimes I have to remind myself to actually go and talk to the people around me, I get so caught up in observing! :D

  8. Talk about making me miss playing!!! ;-) Oh how I miss being part of the symphony family...I wonder if that will ever be a regular part of my life again...


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