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Pit Stains The joys and hurdles of playing in a pit orchestra

By Louisa Benatovich

Student Reporter

I have been playing the French horn since I was in fourth grade. Its mellow sound has been my life’s soundtrack. Through ups and downs, this beautiful piece of brass piping has served as a warm reminder of the good that exists amidst the chaos.

My French horn and I, we have been on many adventures. To me, she is the personification of goodness. She has a soul. Together, we’ve been to area All-States and All-Counties, solo festivals, amusement parks and, once, on the rickety wooden trailer of a pickup truck.

I thought I understood what it meant to be a musician. I thought I understood rigorous practice, chapped lips, and emptying spit valves. After years of overcoming musical obstacles, I assumed I knew what “hard” was.

I did not. 

Compared to what I have been doing for the last two weeks, my previous musical exploits were mere promenades in the park. Playing in the musical pit orchestra, for an inexperienced high school student like myself, was like running an August marathon in Texas after a week of training.

I still have a faint circle around my lips as a reminder of the nearly 17 hours of tooting away. There were times that I wanted to give up, times where I didn’t know if I could play another note. 

So often I got lost in the music, missed partials and got my own spit on the bass player’s foot.  I missed solos, dropped mutes, and by the last day of the musical, I couldn’t remember a time when I hadn’t played for three hours a day.

But throughout it all, I discovered the true beauty of being a pit member. For the two weeks of late-night rehearsals, I played alongside professional adult musicians. These were people who had jobs and lives, but who found the time to fit their childhood pastimes into their schedules. These were teachers, county employees, high school principals, radiologists and more. It was a jolly group, and we all loved to play. 

On the day of the musical, we performed as a unit, existing only to let others shine. We sat in a literal “pit,” hidden from the importance occurring on stage. In the darkness of the theater, we disappeared, but without us, the musical would have been nothing.

The way all the components of the production worked together was breathtaking. I got to be a part of something so much bigger than my fears and inhibitions. The musical was a life in itself. And music, I discovered, stays for life, too.

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