Marc Haas: Orchestra Director • Cass Technical High School This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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7:30 a.m. is an absurd time to begin class. Students trudge in, still in their jackets, looking like zombies, almost forgetting their purpose in being there. The only life in the room comes from the freshmen (who are so excited to be in high school that it hasn't hit them yet how early it is) and the orchestra director, Mr. Haas.

It seems like no matter what is going on outside the room, Mr. Haas's spirit never changes. He
starts our morning by pounding on the grand piano and yelling at us to get tuned and take our places. We ­scramble to collect stands, instruments, and misplaced music. He then engages us in a conversation about current events – by conversation, he means that we should all be quiet and listen to him. His favorite topic is how wrong our history teachers are, and how we should seek other sources of information.

Teasing the violinists (and sometimes other members of the orchestra) ranks high on his favorite list as well. He tells us that we must practice often and with meaning, and that if we are not at rehearsal, he will kill us dead. We must be quiet when we are told, nothing is more important than practicing, and we must not ever think about anything else.

Our morning proceeds with Mr. Haas yelling “Hayden!” or “Vivaldi!” and then the rustle of papers, hushed conversation, and sometimes change of seats in the wind section. We always start a piece with absolute silence, because Mr. Haas says it's a wonderful thing to be able to make something beautiful out of nothing. He begins with a small raise of his baton, and we are suddenly enveloped in beautiful sound. He interrupts our moment of serenity with a shout to the violins to “get closer to the bridge!” and “I need more bass here!” He'll occasionally stop to tell us something about the music – like how Vivaldi wrote so much because he had a quota to meet working at a girls home, or how Mozart loved spent all his money on parties, consequently dying poor.

I count my rests. No matter what piece we are playing, it's a guarantee that the bassoon has multiple rests. It seems as though Mr. Haas and I have an unspoken connection; as I approach my openings, he's always there, we make eye contact, and he gives me the downbeat. That's Mr. Haas at his best. That's the way I always think of him: his long white hair pulled back into a ponytail, his arms moving wildly, his conductor's baton small and defenseless in his hand. I see his brow frowning, bellowing out a command for more viola or less violin, and I also see him winking at me right before a big woodwind solo. He gently points to me, as though giving an introduction, and my nerves just float away.

After rehearsal, I seek refuge in the orchestra room, longing for the brilliant symphonic performances Mr. Haas often plays on the stereo, filling the room with the joyous sound of bellowing cellos and shrieking oboes. But more often, I listen to students practicing, or practice myself. “I love the sound of children practicing,” Mr. Haas tells us often. I smile and listen as well, to a student playing a difficult movement, stopping, replacing the bow, and trying again. I have learned to hear it too, what Mr. Haas must hear – the dedication in the way these students learn their instruments.

Sometimes, when I'm practicing, I stop to think about how I got started, how Mr. Haas helped me to take up the bassoon, so unusual and foreign to most, and how he followed through by sponsoring my private lessons. I turn the instrument over in my hands and marvel at its complexity, remembering my first lesson and how doubtful I was. I smile. It is because of Mr. Haas that I have found a passion, a love for this huge, awkward instrument – and for that, I am forever grateful.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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marisarose2 said...
Oct. 24, 2011 at 3:27 pm
i love your essay cause i also love music. i can relate to your essay but sadly colleges want to know about you not your teacher so change some things to talk more about yourself other then that i love it...
 
SarynJumail This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm
Thanks for the feedback! But actually, I am in college now, and I got tons of praise from admissions counselors from the colleges I applied to because of this essay. I do think that adding a bit more about me would have made it stronger, maybe, but the way it is is the way I want it to be :)
 
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