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Laker Notes columnist Serena Zhang shares a less-than-perfect orchestra experience


ZhangToo many of us go through life unreasonably cautious, trying our hardest not to make mistakes and to generally avoid embarrassment. I'll be honest — that's me.

But I'm here today to encourage you to save yourself the worry and go with the flow. Because life always wins. The worst-case scenario will happen, and you might as well get it over with so you can spend the rest of eternity licking your wounds.

Yes, I am speaking from experience.

It all began at my high school orchestra's holiday winter concert this year, which was postponed until after winter break because of snow days. After two weeks of not practicing, our single rehearsal on the day we returned to school was woefully insufficient, but the show must go on! The evening of the concert arrived, and before the show even began, things started to go horribly wrong.

First, I was running about 20 minutes late. And when I did arrive, I saw I was one of three people who was wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. (The rest of the 60-person orchestra had opted to wear normal concert attire, despite a pre-winter break discussion during which half the group had agreed to don ugly sweaters.) My sweater was bright red with flashing lights, and since my seat is right next to the audience, I was bound to stick out like a sore thumb.

I unpacked and set up in record time, but discovered my violin was completely out of tune right before going onstage. A friend managed to correct it just in time, but by that point, I was sweating profusely from panic. It didn't help that my sweater conducts heat like an oven.

We played a few songs that weren't too shabby, but the worst was yet to come — because then it was time for the senior skit. The senior skit is a winter concert tradition that involves lame orchestra jokes wrapped in a holiday theme. It's always had a reputation for being cheesy, but this year, we reached unprecedented levels of cheese. Cheddar, gouda, the whole cow.

We got a new orchestra teacher this year, so we decided to have a little fun with him in the skit. Basically, he breaks his bow the night before the winter concert (so meta!) and falls into some wacky dream sequence in which he travels back in time to Arizona, his home state. He meets Santa Claus (played by yours truly) and the Mad Hatter, who teach him the meaning of orchestra and give him a new bow. Confused? Join the club.

The skit went surprisingly smoothly until the end. But in the penultimate scene, I exited on the wrong side of the stage and then had to use someone's phone flashlight to sneak around to the other side. My uncoordinated self was super happy to find the back filled with a bunch of huge equipment that looked as if something could fall and crush/impale me at any moment.

I could hear my scene partner, bless him, ad-libbing to buy me time. Once I reached the other side, however, I realized we had not communicated on where the bow would be. Not wanting to delay any longer, I stumbled onstage and began reciting my lines, discreetly (a.k.a. painfully obviously) looking for the bow.

I ended up giving him my own bow and felt quite proud of my quick thinking. Except I forgot that we were to transition directly into a rendition of "Frosty the Snowman." There was no time for my scene partner to return my bow, so I had to pluck my strings for the entire song, which was a disaster as well, seeing as how only three people out of the 10 were actually playing the correct notes.

After that fiasco, we exited the stage to give the audience a chance to seek medical help for their ruptured eardrums. (Just a side note: Polite applause is terrible for everyone.) And that was when I felt it. The first trickle.

Praying to every deity I could think of (you can bet Santa was in there too), I brushed a finger across my nose. Even in the darkness of the backstage area, I could see it. A thin red line. I knew I had about five seconds before the red tide started coming in, so I quickly placed my instrument on a table and ran to the bathroom. It became evident very quickly that my bloody nose had no intention of stopping, so I spent the rest of the concert trying to keep from going into hypotensive shock.

After the concert, my mom found me and told me I had been holding my nose wrong. Apparently you're supposed to pinch somewhere near the nostrils, not in the middle. She's a doctor, so I guess she knows what she's talking about. Finally, the bleeding stopped, and I immediately sought out my orchestra teacher to explain the situation. He was really cool about it, and we exchanged probably the most awkward hug in the universe.

My nose relapsed two more times that night, and I found out my mom had recorded the whole skit on her phone. Also, my principal was in the audience. Ah, 2017 looks promising. But at least my sweater looked cute.

Lake Oswego High School senior Serena Zhang is a Laker Notes columnist for The Review. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..