Some people will always be 1st violinists. These are your prodigies, musically gifted, perfect pitched or just well practiced. And that’s totally fine. Few people recognize it, but more often than not, 2nd violin music is harder. For starters, 1st violins get to play the melody, which makes staying on beat and following the conductor quite easy. On the other hand, 2nd violins play the off beat notes, syncopation, and weird harmonies to accompany the cellos. Sure, 1st’s earn their position and their right to do so and that’s probably the best way to do it. I’m just saying, it’s tough being a 2nd; they don’t always have the easier music. If you disagree with me, it’s probably because you’ve been a 1st all your life.
Unbeknownst to most, I had humble beginnings as a violinist. I was always in the shadow of my brother, my dad, my uncles and my cousins. More so because of the last name I bear.
It’s just what I was expected to be, a great string instrumentalist.
I had no idea how much a single audition would effect my seating in an orchestra. I fluctuated a lot. In Middle School, I was one of two 6th graders to make it into 1st violins. Granted, it was before the great Brenda Ou and Eddie Huang joined, I was quite proud of myself. 7th grade and 8th grade came around and I had really bad auditions. I guess I was having a bad day or something because they really were that bad. I was put pretty much at the end of 3rd violins, a section invented to fit all the kids in an orchestra that didn’t cut anyone. I’m pretty sure I had embraced it at the time. I was certain I would be spending the rest of my years at the back of the orchestra.
High school came around and I found myself at the end again, getting into orchestra by the skin of my teeth. That would all change later, where I was co-principal and principal of 2nd’s (by choice) for Sophomore and Junior year. Yes, rather than sit at the back of 1st’s, I chose to sit at the front of 2nd’s for two years. If I were in a real orchestra, it would mean I get paid more. Junior year, I had a REALLY good audition, such that I was placed in 1st’s above many seniors and my cousins who are much better than me. But some moms complained that their senior sons and daughters were in seconds, so Mr. U reshuffled the roster back to a seniority based model. Not that I minded too much. I of course let seniority happen and I took my rightful place in 1st violin by the end of high school.
What I’m trying to say is, I know very much what it’s like to be a second violinist.
I once told a friend that she would be great 2nd violin material. I meant it as a compliment, but she was extremely irate at that statement. All it takes is one person to play off beat and it’ll mess everybody up. An orchestra needs its strong 2nd violinists, just like a championship basketball team needs its role players. It takes humility to understand that. It takes more to do it.
I know some people struggle with being second rate and under par. It’s A-Okay. I personally think you learn more from being less, rather than the best..
“I know you to be a very successful man, but how will you handle failure when it arises later in life, especially with my daughter?” [not verbatim]
-Uncle Danny to Brandon, when he was asking for permission to marry Nikki
(I wish I got to hear his answer.. What would yours be?)