My name is Peter Xu. I play first violin in the Montclair Gamer Symphony Orchestra, and I would like to tell you about myself and how and why I got in to this amazing group!
When I was 7-years old, my older brother, Eric, introduced me to the violin. At first, I was very reluctant to even pick it up because of how difficult it is to play the instrument. Through constant trial and error, I finally learned how to hold the violin and bow properly, how to hit each note, and how to get the best sound out of it. Even today, I’m still learning new techniques to improve my skills with the violin.
Unfortunately, our mother and biological father’s relationship did not improve. When I was 9-years old, their bitter arguments deteriorated into domestic violence; the police had to be called in; and they both divorced. Eric and I stayed with our mom while my dad had to move out. This split caused me to have social anxiety. During most weekdays, Eric would make me play new songs on the violin and record my renditions via phone messages to our dad. This practice continued until I entered middle school and he entered high school.
Speaking of school, I joined my first school orchestra in 5th grade at Hillside Intermediate. The music we played was simple, but it was a fun activity and introduced me to the concept of playing in a big group. After Hillside, I joined the Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School 6th, 7th, and 8th grade orchestras. Every year, the music got slightly more difficult, but mastering and playing them in front of our whole class felt very fulfilling. It also made middle school life at least a bit more relaxed.
After graduating middle school in 2008, I entered Bridgewater-Raritan High School and took concert and symphonic orchestras as dedicated classes. My teacher and conductor was the legendary Mr. Joseph Lalumia. Mr. Lalumia loved his job. He conducted every music piece that we rehearsed with passion and commanded great respect from my classmates and me. Outside of rehearsals, he was also very sociable and had a great sense of humor. Often, his students would hang out in his room to have lunch and talk with him on matters not music-related. According to some classmates, he was like a “second father” to one and to another, “sanctuary in a stressful environment.”
For the next four years, my classmates and I played music written by a variety of romantic era composers. For example, we played Bizet, Mussorgsky, Mendelssohn, Sibelius, and Verdi. Not only did we play prestigious symphonies, but we boys also had to wear prestigious tuxedos for every concert and musical. Mr. Lalumia, and my experience in his orchestra, represented the best of my high school career. They also got me off to a great start on otherwise dull and stressful school days; but I also knew that all good things have to come to an end, and I worried. After graduating high school, I did not know exactly what I wanted to do in life. Not having Mr. Lalumia as my teacher anymore left me sad and empty.
Empty ambitions made my college career seem pointless. There was no dedicated college orchestra to keep me culturally satisfied and relevant. I had almost no one to connect to and no reason to keep playing my violin. I had to switch majors due to my lack of motivation. The only way I could connect with other classmates was through playing video games and making videos. I just couldn’t find somebody who also liked to listen to my kind of music, until one day everything changed.
In 2015, I had to take at least one more general education class to complete my curriculum, and I found a music fundamentals class. I went to that class, got to know the professor and, to my surprise, met an old friend from elementary school, Andrés. He was a drummer in a music school, and we were more than happy to be classmates once again. Going to that music class and listening to some famous classical music pieces took me back to the glory days of high school orchestra. I passed every exam with top marks, and the professor recognized my musical talents instantly. He kept mentioning that I could join a local community orchestra that rehearses in the same college on weeknights. But then in the hallways, I found a flyer advertising another orchestra; and that was the Montclair Gamer Symphony Orchestra.
I said to myself, “What if I combined my love of video games with my musical talents?” So I contacted Alyssa Menes through email, and the rest is history. At my first rehearsal with the orchestra, I was welcomed with open arms. Finally, I could connect to other people with similar interests, talents, and culture. Finally, I could let go of my social anxieties and be more outgoing. I don’t have to wallow in my past memories; instead, I am creating new ones. The Montclair Gamer Symphony Orchestra is my perfect niche of video game culture and musical talent.
From the humble beginnings of private lessons to the academic demands of a passionate teacher to our very own community orchestra, my taste in music has kept me socially well balanced and encouraged me to keep improving myself. As long as I keep being part of the Montclair Gamer Symphony Orchestra, I don’t have to be ashamed of being a video game guru, technical nerd, and classical musician.