Friday, May 13, 2016

Final Post

This year has gone by in a blur, and I now find myself writing yet another blogpost - my last. Ninth grade has been great, and I've grown an immeasurable amount (unfortunately not in height), but eventually everything comes to an end. And now it's time to say goodbye.

When I first started my blogging journey, I had no idea where it would lead. Honestly, I was annoyed that we would have to write continually to random readers we'd never even met before, and I struggled to find the inspiration to complete every post.

As the year went on, that changed.

Time passed, and soon I found myself writing blogposts just because I wanted to. True, I never published one post past what was required, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. As my posts got longer and more personal, I realized that I actually liked blogging. From tracking the pageviews to reading constructive comments, the whole prospect was fun, interesting and new. If Mr. Parker hadn't assigned his students to create blogs, I never would have been able to publish work online, read the work of my friends and peers, or share experiences with readers from all over the world.

It wasn't much, but it was mine.
A quick "thanks" to everyone who's visited my blog. From nine countries, I was surprised to get such a variety of readers.
Today is exceedingly different than when I started off this project. At the beginning of the year, every student was skittish and nervous. They were afraid of making new friends, creating a blog, or doing anything out of their comfort zone. Now, at the end of the year, it's almost the opposite. People have begin to come out of their shells and show their true colors, and everywhere there's an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation.

Summer's coming.

The words, although unspoken, echo through the school and in the mind of every student. Summer is a time of renewal and growth. It's the short break from the place that consumes most of our time from August to June. Summer is the time of travel, trying new experiences, and growing into oneself. It's a way to say goodbye to the connections you've made that year, and look forward to making new ones in a few months.

And there are only 14 days of school left! I'm super excited.

Alright, sorry for that tangent! Back to the blogging reflection.

Where am I today?

This question seems simple, but it's daunting to answer in just a few paragraphs. To describe myself, I need much more than a 500 word limit. But, seeing as how that's all I have, I suppose I need to try.

Today, I am stronger. I'm beginning to learn how to let go, and hold on to what's important to me. I've faced pain, adversity, and weakness, and I've risen up again. This blog has helped me spill my feelings out onto a page, and has given me somewhere to go when I needed to rant. At the end of this project, I'm a different person - yet still Nina. Random, quirky, awkward me.

To sum this up, I'm grateful for everything this blog and my readers have given me. I might continue post occasionally, but I doubt it will be as active as it was this year. It's been a great time, and I'm thankful that I was given this important experience.

Keep dreaming. Sometimes you just need to let go what's gone, appreciate what still remains, and look forward to what's coming next.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Not Okay

Today has been an absolute mess, and I am not happy at all.

But before I get too far into an annoyed tangent, I think it's important for you to understand the necessary details. This annoyance didn't manifest from just nothing.

While describing this, I'll try to maintain as much anonymity as possible. I'm not trying to put anyone in the spotlight for negative reasons, but I feel like it's important to change these issues before they ruin anyone else's views.

Today started out like any other. Well, not really...

I had been sick with a high fever the last couple of days, so last night my mom gave me some medicine to quell the coughing and sore throat. The side effects were drowsiness and heavy sleep, but I figured it was worth it.

Wrong. My alarm went off at the same time as always, but I was so tired I couldn't even bring myself to get up. After at least five snoozes, I finally fought the exhaustion and got out of bed. I went through the rest of the getting-ready-for-school process in a daze, and a few minutes later I found myself facing my worried-looking sister.

"Did you hear?"

"Hear what?"

"There's been a school shooting threat for today."

I was shocked. Up until now, I was sure that Park City was one of the safest places in Utah. The fact that there had even been a shooting threat was a terrifying prospect, especially with all the gun-related incidents and school shootings around the state.

But that's when the news got worse.

Apparently, the threat had been set for this specific date, May 3rd, way back in October. The administration at the district office hadn't told the students or teachers anything until 11:00 last night, more than half a year after the threat had been issued. Furthermore, they gave no information whatsoever about what was to come, or the repercussions for the shooters.  They chose to tell us over a Facebook post, less than 24 hours before we were scheduled to go to school.

This was an outrage to teachers and students alike. How could they deceive us like this, keep the truth from us for so long? We only found out later that the students who made the threats had been taken care of, but by then it was too late. Hundreds of students had chosen to take an absence rather than take their chances.

We were functioning with less than half the student body, students who were terrified of losing their lives at the hands of a cold barreled gun. Even though the threat had been neutralized, class sizes were still tiny and dismal. In both my second and third period classes, there were less than a dozen students who actually showed up.

Walking through the empty hallways, I kept track of student and teacher reactions.

“I just don’t know what to say.”

“Please, mom, I want to go home. Don’t hang up on me.”

“We watched a movie in French. There were nine of us.”

“My mom wouldn’t let me go to school today. She wanted me to get shot.”

"Parents are furious."

Ms. Duis covered the bottom half of all her windows. The entire day, teachers made no announcements telling us what was going on. Students were terrified and fearful, rumors spread like wildfire. 

It was the learning center. 

No, it was the high school. 

The shooters are among us now.

Of course, none of the rumors were true. But it still filled the school with an atmosphere of dejection and unhappiness, something that everyone felt as they sat down in empty classrooms.

This threat has not only attracted attention around the city, but the state and nation as well. News vans flocked around the school, as well as dozens of extra police offers. Everyone is furious, and likely will be for weeks.

Our school has barely any students today. Photo credit to KSL.

I guess for the rest of the day, I'll just have to go through school like normal, at least until I see our story on the news tonight. All there is to do is wait.

Good luck, Park City. You're going to need it.

Super Late Spring Break Post!

Spring break has come and gone (actually, it happened about 3 weeks ago) but I realized that it's been one of the only interesting occurrences in my life that I could possibly blog about.

That was a run-on sentence, wasn't it? Oh well.

Anyhow, Spring Break was a great time. It included the much-anticipated Heritage Festival for Orchestra, Band, and Choir, and a very long twelve hour bus ride to San Diego. Unfortunately, I was one of the only Freshman on the trip, but that didn't bother me much. Having a sister who's a Junior in high school is very helpful, and I was luckily able to room with two of her friends.

The trip was fun, but... interesting.

Now, don't get me wrong. Everything was awesome, but my own accident-prone self was the main cause of most of our problems. And we had a lot of problems. Maybe once I explain our schedule of events, you'll understand what I mean.

Day 1: Departure!
We left the school at about 6:00 a.m. With almost the entire high school music program going, we had more than 70 students crammed onto two Le Bus coaches. And that's including instruments. Basses, violins, trombones, and even marimbas were stuffed into the storage compartment on the bus, but some of them wouldn't fit. As a result, a couple seats on the bus itself were filled with random musical instruments.

Once we got to Las Vegas, we were scheduled to take part in a workshop that would prepare us for our competition the next day. This is where things started to go wrong for me. Since Orchestra had the least amount of people going on the trip, the sections were extremely imbalanced. There was a total of nine first violins, but only six second violins. Mr. Tanner wanted to balance out the sections, so at the workshop he asked who would be willing to trade sections for the performance and sight-read the second violin part.

Of course, nobody volunteered. Who would be crazy enough to accept the challenge of playing a new piece of music the day before a competition? Mr. Tanner gave a pointed glance at the Concertmaster of chamber, a senior who's the best sightreader in the orchestra, but she just shook her head slowly. If not even the Concertmaster wants to try, who would fill the gap?

Before I could stop myself, I was reluctantly raising my bow. Everyone looked shocked that the "little freshman," the farthest stand in the back, would even consider volunteering. But it was too late to turn back. As Mr. Tanner thanked me and handed out the second violin part, I was struck with just how ridiculous my idea had been. I had less than twelve hours to learn a four-page piece that my section had been working on since the beginning of school, and I wouldn't even get to take out my violin to begin practicing until after midnight (when we were to arrive at our hotel).

And that was the beginning of my vacation.

Day 2: Competition.
I dreaded the day of our competition. I had stayed up late the night before, trying hopelessly to learn the complex part I had received the day before to no avail. We woke up at about 6:00 and boarded the bus in full concert attire (which happened to be a flowy black dress that reached down all the way to our feet). Being told that we would go to the beach after our competition, we brought an extra change of clothes and shoes. We performed at about 10:00, and it went just as I dreaded it would. Even though my stand partner was convinced that I played the piece just as well as any other second violin, I was extremely critical on myself. Convinced that it would be my fault if we lost, I sunk into a pit of depression that only subsided after we'd left the competition site far behind.

After that, we were scheduled to head to the beach. Everyone was excited as they got changed into swimsuits and shorts, but it was only then that Anna and I realized - we had left our clothes on the wrong bus. Since both coaches were identical, we didn't even realize that they were headed to different locations. As a result, both Anna and I were forced to go to the beach in our extremely long, fancy concert dresses.

We got more than a couple weird looks.

By the time we were able to put on our normal clothes again, it had already been six hours, two meals, and nine blocks later.

We were a mess, but we were past the point of caring. For some reason, we couldn't stop laughing. Our hysterical-ness was probably the result of a long day of stress, mistakes, and hilarious mixups, but it was simply amazing.

Photo break!

Going to the beach in our concert dresses was a great time. All photo credits to Anna!

I somehow managed to not get my concert dress wet. Anna was not as lucky.

Despite all the mistakes, we had a great time.

From the left over: Anna, me, and Siri - my rad roommates.

We bought parasols at the zoo. Don't ask why.

There were a few more hilarious incidents that occurred during our trip, but I'll spare you the details. Just remember this - even when everything seems to be going wrong, it'll all work out. This experience has made us a lot stronger, and helped our friendship grow even more.

Just keep laughing. Because, at times, what else can you do?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Just a Freshman

I hate seniority, and similar age-centered stereotypes.

From a distance, the concept seems rational. It's not right for a five-year-old to become the manager of a company, or for a Freshman to become Student Body President of the high school. But the huge expanse of exceptions are way more unfair than the supporting examples, and I've just about had enough of seniority-based bullying, harassment, and superiority complexes.

Here's the thing - in the food chain of high school, Freshman are way at the bottom. (I know this more than most, since I have five classes there.) At the high school on a daily basis, Freshman face an onslaught of dirty looks, snickers, and sometimes even abuse by upper-classmen. Even though it's a heavily-denied issue, it still exists, and is getting even worse.

The administration seems to think that separating 9th graders from the rest of the high school will prevent bullying and overcrowding. However, in almost every high school except for ours, 14-15 year olds are grouped with older students,. This encourages maturity, provides access to more advanced classes, and allows students to form connections with older grades.

However, at our school, none of this growth is taking place.

We face constant segregation from PCHS, and we aren't even allowed to attend high-school events or dances. In order to even get to our advanced classes, we first have to walk almost a mile, which causes us to be late or exhausted by the time we get there. And furthermore, the upper-classmen consider us to be unintelligent, distant lifeforms that neither possess a mind nor use it.

You probably think I'm overreacting, but everything I'm saying is true. Nobody understands inferiority better than a Freshman, and these true quotes that have been said to me prove it.

"Aww, poor Freshman. Why don't you go back to your little baby school over there?"

"You wouldn't understand anyway, it's a high school thing."

"Go back to Treasure. You don't belong here."

There are many more, but I'd rather not put them here. And these aren't even the worst things. I've been lucky to face only a moderate amount of insults, but I know dozens of others who've experienced much worse.

Our lovely school, Treasure. More pictures can be found here.

Compared to the behemoth of the high school, Treasure is less than 1/4 the size and quality.
Park City High School is ranked as the #1 school in Utah, and one of the top 200 in the nation. It has its own Wikipedia page, newspaper, and TV service. The language, biology, and arts programs are all nationally ranked.

Then why are we so still far behind?

The gap between the high school and Treasure is less than a mile, but if feels like a universe. The distance is riddled with black holes that can never be filled, injustices that have yet to be addressed. People judge Freshman as a group of immature, naïve children. Even those who take the same classes as Sophmores and Juniors are underestimated, ignored, and disregarded.

We need a change.

Our district has been considering putting ninth graders at the high school, and I completely agree with this idea. I don't want any future student to face what we do today, and maybe if upper-classmen could learn to understand our true potential, they wouldn't treat us like babies.

If anyone older is reading this, I want to make one thing clear - not every upper classman is like this. Through the high school, I've met extremely kind Seniors, Juniors, and Sophmores that accept and befriend me for the strength of my mind, and not the physical appearance of my age and grade. If everyone could be as kind as these people, we wouldn't be facing this problem in the first place.

So, the moral of this rant? Don't judge someone because of their age, appearance, or circumstances. Bullying on younger students can make a lasting impression. Once you can accept someone for the person they are inside, you'll be a whole lot happier. Everybody is so much more than you can even comprehend.

After all, there's no such thing as "just a Freshman."

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Why Being Sick is Great (Not Really)

Everyone hates being sick. Especially me.

Being sick, at least for me, involves a few steps.

1. Feel a bit iffy the night before. Convince myself that it's only because I had a really long day. Proceed to get ready for bed, and fall asleep.
2. Wake up in the morning.
3. Welp. It's not gone.
4. Actually, I think it's worse...
5. *moaning*
6. This is a problem.

Everyone gets sick once in awhile. In the case of my sister, sickness comes on almost once a every two months. For my mom, who has extremely sensitive lungs, a common cold can quickly escalate into pneumonia. And in regards to me, I barely ever get sick. But when I do, it usually lasts longer than normal and isn't the most fun experience in the world.

For the past week, I've been fighting a bad case of that-one-sickness-that-nobody-can-identify. I stayed home from school on Tuesday and went to the doctor, but not even she knew what it was. She said that the symptoms were similar to mono, (which makes no sense in my case :l) but she wasn't able to give me antibiotics because she wasn't sure. As a result, I've spent the past couple of days feeling miserable, going through tons of tissues, and drinking a lot of tea.

Tea is great, by the way. I have nothing against tea. This mug is also pretty rad.

It wasn't the first time that disease came at the worst possible moment. With the arrival of my mono (or whatever it was) also came Solo and Ensemble festival, which I had been preparing for months. It's ridiculous how bad things happen at even worse times, but I've been alive long enough to know that fate happens, and we can't always be in control.

But even though sickness can be awful and lame, I've learned that everything has a silver lining. Staying home on Tuesday gave me a chance to just rest and relax a little. With school five days a week and extracurriculars almost as often, I rarely have time to just sit in bed all day and think.

It was really nice to be able to think about the simplicities of life for awhile, and the next day when I went back to school, I was completely appreciative for my day off. With all the stress of modern life, it's important to take some time to just do nothing and recover.

By the time I wrote this post, I was already feeling almost 100%. It's been almost eight days, and I'm excited to get rid of this gross sickness once and for all. After all, I've learned that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and this is just one of many cases where that expression rings true.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why Do I Even Like Hamilton

As promised, another music post is here.

However, this one isn't about my love for violin or orchestra. It's about a passion I had long ago, something I thought I had given up a few years back. Recently, one of my friends reintroduced me to it, and now although I may not participate in it, I can at least admire it from afar.

To put it bluntly, I'm talking about theater and musicals.

I was a huge fan of theater in elementary through middle school. I was cast in Annie, Guys and Dolls, Sleepy Hollow, School House Rock, and multiple other plays, and I loved performing. Theater occupied a lot of time in my life, but then I realized that it wasn't my passion. Even though I liked the dancing and acting, it just didn't click with me. That's when I discovered - theater was not my thing.

Everyone has a "thing," something that they love to do (and aren't terrible at). For some, it's a certain sport or activity. For others, it's being onstage or behind the scenes. And for me, it happens to be violin and academics.

I picked up the violin and started performing in a new way. I discovered the incredible sensation of fingers flying across steel strings, vibrating sound waves that only the violinist can control. Eventually, theater just faded into the past, and I moved on. To be honest, I hadn't even thought about it until a few weeks ago, when my friend Sam (a theater fanatic) insisted that I listen to the musical Hamilton.

At first, I wasn't ecstatic. I didn't think that listening to a collection of random singers rap about the 1700s sounded especially interesting. Hamilton, set in the time period of the American Revolution, focused on the life of Alexander Hamilton, someone I was convinced was a boring and scholarly Founding Father.

I was wrong.

The music was in more of a pop/rap style, and all the songs had a distinctly catchy beat. I was shocked by how much I liked the songs, and each lyric had a much deeper meaning than it seemed. The musical was incredible, and now I would recommend it to anyone (and everyone). Although it covered some slightly sketchy topics, overall it was amazing.

I literally love this musical. LISTEN TO IT. Nice image, too.
The point of this post? Well, there are a few.

1. Hamilton is an amazing musical that you should listen to if you have the time.
2. Don't completely shut yourself off from something isn't your "norm." At first, I was reluctant to try anything as extreme as Hamilton, but with Sam's urging, I relented.
3. Don't judge anything, or anyone, until you know them! There's one expression that I think sums it up pretty well - do not judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins. Whether it be the case of judging a rap-musical, or that one person you've never talked to, just give it a try.

I know this post seems pretty random and corny, but hang in there and I'll get back to the on-topic stuff eventually. Until then!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The First Music Post That's Actually About Music

DISCLAIMER: In the beginning, I said that this would be a music blog; and even though I still haven't posted any actual posts about music, I still intend to.

Starting now.

I don't think I ever truly went into detail about my experience with music. Aside from the first post, I haven't mentioned much at all. So, I'll start with the basics, and tell my story from there.

I started playing piano when I was six years old, and although my progress was fast, it just didn't speak to me. I continued until the age of about eleven, when we were given a chance to sample any band or orchestra instrument at Ecker. Most of my friends chose band instruments, but I was fascinated with the haunting vibrato and sheer expressiveness of the violin. I chose orchestra, and that was where my love for string instruments began.

In seventh grade, I got serious. (Well, as serious as a middle schooler can get...) I started string band, began practicing during lunch four days a week, and somehow convinced myself that I would continue orchestra throughout high school. I performed with the string band at various locations, from Oh, Shucks to Ghidotti's, and my love for the instrument continued to grow. By the beginning of eighth grade, I had begun taking private lessons, and after an audition process, I was made Concertmaster of the 8th grade orchestra.

8th grade passed by in a blur, but I still wasn't satisfied with where I was. At combined concerts, I was able to listen to the high school Symphony, and had been amazed at what seemed to be a group fifty times better than my own. I wanted to play with these people who were stronger, better, more advanced violinists. Luckily, I would only have to wait a year.

Freshman year, my wish was answered. I was automatically able to join the Symphony at the high school, and I was intent on becoming a player worthy of being in the orchestra.

Then, the audition came.

This would decide who sat where in the orchestra. High seats were sought after, but the Concertmaster position was the most coveted seat of them all. As second in command (after the conductor), the Concertmaster essentially leads the orchestra and has the most important voice of all the violinists. As a freshman, I had no hope in becoming the Concertmaster. I was aiming for the top, but in a class with experienced sophomores and juniors, I didn't want to set impossible goals.

Knowing this, I practiced hard and pledged to do my best. The audition went well, but when the results were announced, I was shocked.

I was Associate Concertmaster, sitting right next to the Concertmaster (who happened to be a junior).

I was speechless, of course. Now, more than ever, I knew that I had to prove to everyone that I deserved to be up there. Over the course of the year, I improved immensely and gained more confidence in my abilities. But the ride wasn't always smooth. At the end of the first semester, new seating was implemented. Our teacher had told us that it would be based on where we were needed, not our ability, but that hardly softened the blow to me. I went from being at the very front of the orchestra to the very back in one day. Of course, I was devastated. Even though Mr. Tanner said it was because he needed a strong player in the back, I felt like my pride had been stripped away.

It was a hard decision to audition for Chamber orchestra. As it was clearly put, Chamber was "the best orchestra for the best players." Chamber is the one who handles the school musicals and regional festivals. It's more than twice as small as Symphony, and this year, only three spots for violinists were opening up. It was almost impossible to even think about. After my most recent letdown with the seating, it would be hard to let that go and expose myself again so soon afterwards.

However, I also knew that I needed to try.

The night before the audition, I practiced for more than 4 hours. When I was finally satisfied, I put away my violin and hoped for the best. The next day, I arrived early at the audition site. One by one, each student was called in by the judging committee, which was composed of Mr. Tanner and six other seniors who were previously in Chamber. As time went on, I got increasingly more and more nervous, especially after seeing the reactions of the people who came out. After what seemed like forever, I was called in.

"You may begin whenever you're ready."

Anyone who's ever been forced to wait can relate to this.

The waiting after the audition was excruciating. Did I make it? Did I fail? Even though I felt pretty confident about my performance, I didn't want to get my hopes up. Finally, the news arrived on Friday night.

I had made Chamber!

I was ecstatic, and still am. Now that the stakes are so much higher, I need to prove more than ever that I can handle it. I can't wait to play alongside the best violinists at the school, and I honestly cannot describe how excited I am for this opportunity.

Sorry for the long post, but I thought I should get the basics out of the way so that in the future, I can go onto actually interesting posts.

Anyway, hopefully next year, everything will be great! Chamber or not, this treble-maker still has a long way to go.