February, a month shorter and cozier than all others, is also characteristically packed with reminders of talent and grandeur. It’s awards season. It’s theater season. It’s also, quite wonderfully, symphony season.
Thanks to an unforeseen stroke of luck this month, I found myself with box seats to the San Francisco Symphony on a stormy Friday night. I got to be apart of a facet of San Francisco I usually just write about, or watch with respect and adoration from afar. Symphony people are interesting. They speak in references no one else understands, they’re quirky and emphatic, and smirk rather than smile. They listen more skillfully than the general population, and I admire them tremendously for their ability to sit still and at peace for long periods of time. But the end of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony also heralded the end of my time in box seats, a luxury I don’t imagine I’ll have for a very long time (if ever again).
I hadn’t been to Davies Symphony Hall since I was a kid. My parents brought my sister and me to see a special musical reading of “Peter and the Wolf,” where the orchestra spiked the story with pops and crescendos as Rita Moreno read the tale from a chair in the middle of the stage. She may have been reading the classic fairytale, but I was much more interested in the fact that this old woman before me had once been the fiery Anita from “West Side Story.” I like to live in America, life is alright in America rung in my head the entire show. I wasn’t in a box seat that night. I was up in the rafters, looking down. A child. Casting perfect judgements on a world I was barely apart of. Useless, essentially.
But this month I was in the box seats. And yes, the view and the sound were amazing (I could see the cellist scratching his ankle, hear the swish of the pages of music being turned), but the best part of being in the box seats is the fact that other people notice you in the box seats and wonder how you got them and just who might you be? Because surely you’ve got to be somebody to score them. On a more allegorical note, however, I felt something else. It’s quite a jump, the rafters to Box Y. As you grow up, you quite literally are closer and closer to the action of life, and if you’re lucky, the experience becomes increasingly more thrilling. You’re close to the music, you’re dancing to the music, hell - some nights you’re even making the music. Now, maybe that’s the writer in me, ceaselessly looking for meaning and purpose in absolutely everything, making my childhood a pillar of significant nostalgia when it probably was just as banal and humdrum as the next person’s.
We look to music and movies and the magic of a show to remind us that life itself can be extraordinary, even if ours in the moment currently is not. So if art depicts life or life depicts art, who are we to say they’re different at all. Just dreamy iterations, really. Some which we watch together in dark theaters or vibrating concert halls, or on our boyfriend’s couch. Some we watch with life as the ticket. Some we don’t even realize we’re watching at all.
// Photo by Rodrigo Ruiz
Isabella Welch is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in history. Her writing has been featured in history journals, travel blogs, as well as her own site, New Carthage. Director of Editorial & Creative Development at Bob Cut Mag, lover of stories and tinto de verano, she’s usually found wandering the Headlands.