Giving your university application or CV an edge over other candidates may mean taking on extra qualifications, such as an Extended Project Qualification or additional A-levels, or it might mean gaining work experience in a relevant area (or both!). But not all the things you can do to enhance your prospects have to involve stressing yourself out with too big a workload. One of the more fun activities that will bestow a surprising number of benefits upon you is playing in an orchestra. In this article, we look at the different ways in which this can set you on the road to achieving great things in life and give you some tips for how to get involved.
It benefits your career
Of course, if you want to play in an orchestra professionally, then it goes without saying that involvement in an orchestra while you’re still at school is essential. However, there are many transferable skills to be gained from being in an orchestra that you can apply to all walks of life. When you’re first trying to get onto the career ladder and you’re answering all those awkward interview questions about “demonstrating teamwork”, “your biggest challenge”, and so on, you’ll be able to use anecdotes from your orchestral experience to help if you don’t have any work experience to fall back on. To give you an illustration, these are just a few of the transferable skills you’ll pick up:
In an orchestra, you’re part of a team working towards a common goal. You all have to work effectively together to produce a sound people want to hear, and to do justice to the notes a composer has written on a page. If one person doesn’t pull their weight, it can affect the entire performance – so you all need to pull together and contribute to the best of your abilities, just as you would in a business environment.
You’ll need to practise your part in between sessions, as well as committing the time to weekly rehearsals. Your organisational skills will get a good boost when you have to juggle all this with your schoolwork, and it will give you good practice for handling large workloads at university and beyond.
Coping under pressure
Though enjoyable, an orchestra is a high-pressured environment because you’re required to play your instrument to a high standard, performing beautifully without making any mistakes. Your ability to overcome stage fright and put on top-notch performances will stand you in good stead and boost your confidence in other situations you may find yourself in at school, university or in a job, such as giving a presentation.
It takes a lot of hard work and determination to reach a high standard on any musical instrument. You’ll need to practise religiously pretty much every day for years, and continue to do so in order to maintain that high standard once you’ve attained it. Not all music practice is fun, either; scales and studies are often dull and repetitive, and the practical and theory exams you’ll be encouraged to take are challenging. If you want to prove you’ve got the discipline and self-motivation it takes to see a project through to its conclusion, this is a great way to demonstrate it.
It improves your general knowledge
Music round of University Challenge? If you play in an orchestra, the chances are you’ll be able to answer a lot more of the classical ones! The breadth of music you’re likely to cover if you play in an orchestra will greatly enhance your general knowledge, as you’ll be able to identify music (or at least give an educated guess as to the period during which it was written or the composer who wrote it), learn about composers and when they were writing, and understand the different techniques composers use to create a particular musical effect or evoke a particular emotion. From the religious music of the Renaissance to modern day film music, there’s great variety in the material you can get to know in an orchestra, and it will open your eyes to the development of Western music and how it has reached the point it’s at today. Not only that, but the very best way to understand the complexity and nuances of a piece of music is to perform it, and this will deepen your musical appreciation.
It keeps you sane
Making music with lots of other people is tremendously rewarding and very therapeutic. No matter how bad your day at school has been, you’ll soon forget about your troubles once you’re sitting down in front of your music and throwing yourself into a performance. Playing in an orchestra is an incredibly intellectually demanding exercise, and one that must command your full attention. It’s a great way of forgetting about schoolwork for a while, at the same time as still making use of (and developing) different areas of your brain. Much better and more productive than watching trash TV or going shopping, and it’ll refresh your mind ready to tackle your schoolwork with renewed vigour.