Side note: This isn't really about grad school, but it was such a great experience!
Last Saturday night I went to the Seattle Symphony. They played three things: Dvorak's Slavonic Dances; Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta; and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, "Emperor."
The guy who set up this trip to the symphony gets student prices or something so we got some cheap tickets. As we were arriving he said that our seats were in the front, so we'd be able to see well. Really well.
I couldn't believe how close we were! We walked down the aisle to the very front row where the seats were about one foot from the stage!
I sat down right in front of the conductor's podium. The stage was over my head so I had to look way up the whole time to see the orchestra. The music was beautiful and I enjoyed sitting so close so I could see all the detail.
But as I sat there, I looked at the conductor's pants. They were wrinkled! I mean, not just from sitting. I started wondering if he'd just picked them up off the floor from the day before - or perhaps he just hadn't ironed them from the day before. I was quite amazed that they were wrinkled.
And then I kept hearing this loud breathing. It was the first violinist, off to my left. He breathed so loud I could hear him each time he breathed in - even while the music was going on.
Every time the conductor really got into it and was bouncing on the podium to get some energy into his baton-waving, the podium would make this thunking noise, like it wasn't quite flat on the floor.
One woman a few seats in kept slipping out of her shoes.
When pieces would end and the audience clapped, a couple of the people looked really grumpy, which surprised me. I would hope playing in an orchestra wouldn't be a boring, ho-hum "job," but I guess a person could feel that way.
Part way through one of the crazier pieces, one of the violinists bows broke a bit. There was a big hunk of it (horse hair?) flying about since it was still attached at the top and bottom of the bow. He kept playing away, which would have driven me crazy. He finally got a few seconds rest and he grabbed hold of the offending broken bits and ripped them out of his bow, then jumped right back into the music.
Anyway, it was quite amazing to be that close. True, the violins were a bit overwhelming and it was hard to hear much else. But I really enjoyed the Dvorak and Beethoven pieces. For the record, Bartok is not one of my favorite composers.