Extracurriculars seem to be the bane of every high schooler’s existence. We’re expected to get good grades, take care of responsibilities at home, and get involved in a bunch of clubs at school? That’s a lot to juggle. Adults and college sources always seem to be doling out advice like “do something you’re passionate about” or “commit yourself deeply to a few special activities” or “choose something you can excel in”. But at this age, it’s often hard to target a specific passion that can be easily pursued.
As such, many kids end up drifting between clubs that they’re only half-interested in. Well, I have another suggestion for you: music. No matter how you choose to involve yourself, music will leave a lasting and positive mark on your life, whether or not you plan to pursue it as a career.
I personally have been involved in orchestra since the fourth grade. Under my parents’ guidance, I signed up to play the violin with no prior experience. At first, I was thrilled with my new instrument. Over time, however, my enthusiasm waned. There was quite a long period in middle school during which I truly detested playing. It was nothing but a chore to practice something that I had no interest in. Then, I realized that I could switch instruments, so I picked up the double bass. Since then, I have actually loved playing. My advice? Choose to play something that actually appeals to you, not your parents. It will make rehearsal and practice infinitely more bearable.
So you can play an instrument, now what? Luckily, high school offers countless opportunities for musicians to get involved. Besides just performing in the regular band, orchestra, or choir, many schools offer select ensembles that you can audition for. Others have marching band, school musicals, or symphonic ensembles. These require more commitment, but also expose you to new and challenging pieces. On a more competitive level, dedicated musicians can audition for region and state ensembles, which provide an awesome opportunity to meet new people, improve your skills, and read some incredibly difficult but beautiful music. Needless to say, all of these things do make great resume builders.
There are some concrete benefits to playing an instrument, too. Studies have shown that it can increase cognitive development, which is a pretty sweet bonus that comes along with learning to read music. It also increases coordination, but trust me, you don’t need any coordination to play one (I’m proof of that). Once you start practicing regularly, you’ll find that practicing is a great stress-reliever. It clears your mind and allows you to stop focusing on school for a bit. Though it requires a fair amount of dedication, it teaches commitment and responsibility. The more effort you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.
My favorite part about being in orchestra is most certainly the group of friends I’ve made. Musicians tend to be a hardworking, motivated bunch, and it’s nice to be surrounded by people with similar interests. We’ve bonded on trips, during concerts, and throughout rehearsals. Ensembles provide a chance for you to interact with people you wouldn’t normally come in contact with. These peers are also a great source of information when it comes to music. You can form quartets or other ensembles, or simply practice together in order to make music a more social experience.
It seems as though orchestra has been stigmatized as a nerdy pursuit, totally taboo if you wish to have any sort of “street cred” in high school. Well, this is a lie. People of all social groups are involved in band, choir, and orchestra, and you can be too. The benefits to playing an instrument are countless, and they’ll follow you long past high school. No matter what field you go into, a musician’s work ethic will come in handy.