By Isabelle Peck ’18, applied physics major at Rensselaer

When I started playing the viola in fourth grade, I never dreamed that I would end up playing a concert at Carnegie Hall. Now, as a senior at Rensselaer, the performance has been the perfect culmination of my entire music education.

Music has always been a creative outlet and fun hobby for me. I owe a lot of my musical success to my hometown school district’s music program and the phenomenal teachers, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to continue playing in orchestra with an equally enthusiastic teacher in college. The best part about playing the viola is not the instrument itself, but rather being a member of an orchestra where every individual matters and we are all working together in perfect synchronization to create sounds that exist for a wonderful moment in time. Being part of the Rensselaer Orchestra, however, is something especially unique—the majority of our members are scientists and engineers, yet we all have a passion for music as well. We participate because we genuinely enjoy the work, the process, and the performances, as well as the company of others as passionate as ourselves.

The preparation process leading up to our Carnegie Hall performance was extensive, but well worth it. Our director, Nick DeMaison, arranged several weekend rehearsals and small group sectionals with professional musicians to help us get ready. We began the preparation almost a year ago, preparing and performing the third movement of Jean Sibelius’s Symphony No. 5 during the spring 2018 semester. Usually, our first concert of the fall semester is in November, so having to have the music performance-ready an entire month earlier (October) required great focus, commitment, and discipline from each and every member. Along with a newer contemporary piece by Missy Mazzoli (River Rouge Transfiguration), this Sibelius symphony was the hardest piece the Rensselaer Orchestra had ever attempted to learn, not to mention our director’s favorite orchestra piece, and it needed to showcase what we could really do.

The concert experience itself was unreal, and we felt so lucky for the opportunity to perform on one of the greatest and most famous stages in the world. We were all star-struck, from the moment we walked in the stage door at 1 p.m., to the final bow at 9 p.m., to the weeks after the performance. To be performing on the same stage where so many greats have been was incredible. All the orchestra members were very excited about taking photos in the hall between the rehearsal and the concert, and more than 1,500 people were in attendance to hear us play that evening. Many professional musicians and alumni orchestra members joined us for the performance, and the adrenaline and excitement of playing at Carnegie Hall helped us accentuate the musicality of our performance.

I’m graduating from RPI next month, but I am very much hoping to continue playing music in some capacity. I am confident that the Rensselaer Orchestra will continue to improve semester after semester, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up at Carnegie Hall again in the future. This concert was an incredible experience that we will all remember for the rest of our lives.