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That First Day
It hardly seems like a year ago I was starting high school.
My school isn’t your ordinary high school. It’s a magnet school, with five highly selective magnets of intense study. I had been accepted into the performing arts magnet, which was a separate school unto itself--MAS, and my weapon of choice was the clarinet for the band program. My high school has a large, gothic style building with three floors and a dominating tower which makes up the forth floor. It’s a gorgeous building, but seemed like a complex labyrinth to the timid freshman.
I had a lot to worry about the night before the first day of high school. My parents had recently filed for bankruptcy, so every cost that MAS and my school demanded of my family stabbed me with guilt, and I was determined not to ask for anything I didn’t absolutely need from my parents. That meant biting my lip and dealing with a beginner’s model clarinet and the absence of private lessons, and the two things that MAS pushed heavily were professional model instruments and private lessons. I told myself I could be great without either.
I was also worried about all of the new people. My school attracts people from all over my county, so I was anxious to meet all the artsy-fartsy freaks that my mother thought it was full of. I did know a handful of people though, from being in the color guard of the marching band. I was lacking all of my middle school buddies, though, as they had chosen the easy route and went to the high schools in the traditional program. I was entering high school but with few friends, no new clothes, a mediocre instrument, and a band camp sunburn.
I dressed modestly on the first day. I chose to wear simple jeans, a white button-up shirt with a pink t-shirt underneath, and sneakers. It wasn’t amazing, but it was nice enough, and I forced myself to get over the fact that I couldn’t afford new clothes. I didn’t know about make-up back then, so I think all I wore was mascara.
The bus ride to school made me even more nervous. For awhile I thought I was on the wrong bus. When middle school students started getting on, though, I knew it had to be right, because MAS is right next to Noe Middle School, and the two schools share busing routes. Soon enough we were at my new school, and I was stumbling off the bus with a clarinet in one hand, purse in the other, and rucksack on back. I didn’t know where to go or what to do, and there was still twenty minutes until the school started, so I followed the crowd into the underclassmen cafeteria. I spotted some of the few middle school friends I knew, and quickly went over to them. It felt nice to stand there with acquaintances that were as nervous as I, waiting for the newest chapter in our lives to begin.
The classes went by in a haze. Even though I had few friends from middle school, it helped that my mother is a teacher at Barr Middle School, which produces a decent output of MAS kids. That initial connection of, “Is your mother a teacher at Barr?” clamed my nerves decently, and it helped even more that my mother’s former students liked her as a teacher.
Finally the dreaded lunch period came upon us. True to my frugality, I had packed my own lunch and was able to avoid the massive line that soon formed. I stuck with the people from my class to avoid the awkward freshman-standing-alone-by-themselves scenario, and soon enough it was time for the last class of the day: Symphonic Band.
I had been dreading and looking forward to this class the most. I was dreading it because at MAS, they start preparing for the first concert in September on the very first day of school. They do so by putting the hardest level music out there right in front of you, in a sort of sink-or-swim situation. I was looking forward to Symphonic Band, however, because that class was the reason why I was at MAS. It was one of my major classes, the class where I would learn the most information to eventually become the musician I want to be. That class was the reason I had bade farewell to all my middle school friends and braved an overwhelming first day of school.
As if the music wasn’t hard enough, the new reed I was using was way too hard for my instrument, so I couldn’t produce a sound even if I wanted to. I reached a new level of being overwhelmed as what seemed like everybody else played this incredibly hard music almost perfectly (and this was just the warm-up exercises). The hour-and-a-half block eventually ended, and so ended my first day of school. Phew.
Lucky for me, I had marching band practice right after school, so I didn’t have to cope with a sweaty bus ride home. When the marching band director and assistant band director at MAS asked to talk to me, however, I finally cracked. I told him my family just couldn’t afford private lessons right now, and it upset me that I had to start polishing up these incredibly hard pieces of music by myself. It also didn’t help that private teacher reports had replaced practice logs and was a nice chunk of my grade.
I calmed down, though, as he reassured me that I could just get my private teacher report filled out by the sectional coach, until I could start receiving lessons. I focused myself on marching band for the moment, changing into more comfortable clothing and putting my things in my bag.
Well it turns out that the backpack I put my cell phone in wasn’t mine- it was the backpack of a girl in the percussion section. She had the exact same pink L.L. Bean backpack as me, and I nearly flipped out when I realized I didn’t have a cell phone and it was with a girl I barely knew.
I started making frantic calls to the band director, sending emails, and posting notices on Facebook. School had started on Thursday, and the next band practice wasn’t until Tuesday. I didn’t think I could survive without my cell phone for the whole weekend, especially since it was the first week of school and I had to talk to my friends about it. In the end I had to travel almost an hour out to the nice, rich part of town to get my cell phone back. It all worked out in the end, anyway.
My freshman year turned out to be a great year. Despite losing the Mosk/High school game (it’s a BIG rivalry), the constant walking between the school building and the MAS building, incompetent teachers besmirching High school, ridiculous dances in my Fundamentals of Dance class, constant deadlines and expectations from MAS, a very rainy and drama-filled marching band season, meaningless infatuations and crushes, learning the hard way to be who I want to be, and a rigorous curriculum, I loved every second of my freshman year at high school and MAS. I now feel like a true MAS kid, goal-oriented with big dreams. I figured out what I want to do with my life so far, which is become a music educator, and got the trip of a lifetime to San Antonio, Texas with the MAS Bands.
In the end, life got better. My parents are managing their bankruptcy well; I have an awesome new professional model clarinet, some new clothes for school, a band camp sunburn, and a better outlook on life. My first year of high school taught me that you are what you make yourself, and you have to want to make your life better to do so. I learned that my biggest pet peeve is passive aggressiveness, and always will be. I applied for MAS in the hopes that I could become a great musician, and I learned that while MAS isn’t as selective as you might think, it’s what you do with that great education you receive that makes you who you are.
My dreams are as high as the sky right now and High school and MAS keeps those dreams possible. High school keeps me smart, while MAS keeps me talented. It’s that great combination that makes me extremely excited for my sophomore year of high school; the prospect of more personal growth, more personal truths presenting themselves, and further becoming myself is enough to make me write a reflection of my first amazing year at MAS and high school.