Io Maeda ’24

Who makes the light in one of the Fine Arts Center shine brightly almost every night? It is me! My night habit is spending time in room M127 to practice the instruments (so please do not use the room for me!).

After taking a shower, I always start the practice by playing the piano for 30 minutes. I started to learn it last May because all of the Music department professors strongly recommend me to do it, as I am interested in at least minoring in Music. Ms. Cheryl Everett teaches me weekly. I think they were right because the knowledge and the performing skills of the piano is helping me a lot to survive in Music Theory I this semester.

Next, I play the viola for 30 minutes. Never say that the viola is a “larger violin”! Violin is “Violino” in Italian, which means “small viola” (combining “viol-” from viola with “-ino,” which is a diminutive suffix). I have started to learn it because I thought it would be easy to play, as I have been playing the violin since I was five years old. Yes, I thought that the viola was just a larger violin! However, it is much harder than I expected. It is heavier and larger than a violin, which makes my left shoulder ache badly.

Finally, I play the violin, my main instrument, for 2 hours. I divide it into four parts doing various practices. I feel so good every time after I play the viola because the violin is lighter and smaller to play, burdening my body less.

Originally, I was not passionate about playing instruments. Although I had a habit of playing the violin for an hour, I thought it was enough as I consider it just one of my hobbies. However, things have changed after I enrolled at Wabash College in August 2020. I was surprised when, during the first lesson, my violin/ viola instructor Mr. Alfred Abel assigned me to play “Vitali’s Chaconne” after listening to my repertoire. Although I told him that it was too difficult for me to play, he encouraged me to try my best. Without any other choice but to tackle it, I have started to practice the violin for 2 hours. However, I felt stressed as I could not see any improvement.

One day, I chatted with a close friend who also happens to be a musicologist. I told her that although I like listening to classical music, I do not like playing the violin. Then, she replied, “If you quit playing the instruments, you will not be able to fulfill yourself. Instead of playing and making music, you will just enjoy listening to music while you drink.” I was very shocked with her response. Although I thought I am different from by listening and playing classical music, considering it as a high-art, I would be seen in a different light by her if I quit playing the instruments. Having pride that I do not want to be treated the same as anything else, I have continued practicing the violin while maintaining a good GPA.

Eventually, I thought that I should at least minor in Music, as I devote so much time to playing the violin. Then, I also started playing the piano and the viola during the last Summer Break – three hours for three different instruments…

I have a goal: to be accepted to a graduate school (conservatoire) through my violin performance. However, I often feel alone when I practice in the room for a long time. I sometimes envy other students hanging out with each other at night looking through the window of the room. To be honest, there have been many times that I wanted to escape from the room. However, I have no friends that I can easily hang out with because of the pandemic and spending most of my free time playing the instruments (or writing for The Bachelor).

I once told Mr. Abel that I wish I could be like other students enjoying their college life. He said, “Do you want to spend your time just watching TV?” Again, his words reminded me what my friend said to me before. If I really love music, then I cannot just be a “consumer” but also be a “producer” by playing the instruments.

But still, I struggled with loneliness. Unlike the athletes, I do not have any teammates who encourage each other and nurture friendship through teamwork. Moreover, I feel irritated if someone practices in other rooms because it makes it hard for me to concentrate. I suffer from my contradiction: approaching and avoiding people at the same time.

Tired of loneliness, I tried to join a fraternity this semester. However, I left after spending six days as stress worsened my arrhythmia. I was sad and some people felt sorry for me. However, Ms. Everett was the only person who was happy to hear about it and praised it as a “nice mature decision”. I was quite perplexed with her response and asked why. She said, “I have declined invitations from friends multiple times like going to watch a movie, but instead sitting before the piano. However, I am happy with my decision because I have a great opportunity to perform such as playing with the chamber orchestra.”

Her words changed my world view suddenly. I am not a sad student who struggles with loneliness. I am a person who has a high goal setting who would spend every moment and any opportunities to achieve it. Being alone is often negatively seen, such as some famous music like “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel, or “No One is Alone” from Into the Woods. However, I strongly oppose it. Do not misunderstand seeing me falling into serious misanthropy. I can enjoy talking with people and having a crush on somebody like a normal college student. I do not know how I will spend the graduation ceremony. Although I might not hug others as I miss developing “brotherhood”, I might still be happy even though I cannot go to a graduate school. My college diploma shall not just be a necessary status to get a job, but it shall be a token that I have devoted myself to things which I really want to do following my heart!