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"My Quest for the Perfect Reed.....and Acceptance" - common app

lywillis 1 / 4  
Aug 11, 2011   #1
prompt: A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.

Prompt: Topic of your choice/extracurricular that makes you unique

My Quest for the Perfect Reed....and Acceptance

I know this girl. Sometimes I love her, sometimes I loathe her. Sometimes she's loud and outspoken when I need her to be quiet, other times she's shy and timid when I need her to speak up. The only thing that's predictable about her is her mercurial personality. Indeed, my oboe, Bessie, is frustrating, high maintenance, and often annoying. But I don't know what I would do without her.

Before labeling me crazy for having such an unstable yet committed relationship with my oboe, be aware of the fact that it is completely normal for most people of my caliber to have very similar idiosyncrasies. The quintessential oboist publicly carries on conversations with her named instrument, cringes at that evil word "section," and fears only one thing in life: Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. In fact, we put ourselves through more pain than necessary by embarking on the futile quest for the "perfect reed." Yet this comfortable sense of familiarity-with my instrument and the nature of the position-came from a quest for something even more elusive: acceptance.

I first picked up my grandfather's oboe because I was told that playing it would be a way to honor his memory. Though I never met my grandfather Leo, we shared a birthday and a name, initially reason enough to continue on his legacy in double reed performance. Hard as it was technically, the sixty-year-old Marigaux proved itself to be more difficult for me in terms of how it thwarted my most zealous endeavor to fit in as a young and aspiring tween.

From the moment I started as the only oboe in my elementary school band, when students laughed at its funny sound and called me the "hobo oboe" girl, I recognized that there was definitely something different about the instrument I played. Middle school came along, but the teasing didn't stop. Though surrounded by a slightly wider variety of instruments than in elementary school, I was still the solitary player in my section. Still, there was the ubiquitous question from my peers of what the oboe was, followed by the "hobo" reference and a smirk. Despite this, I played because I felt I had to. Many ridiculed the playing while others snickered at the sound that came out. And the fact that I was different bothered me. A lot.

It wasn't until my summer at performing arts camp-yeah, I guess it was band camp-that I could finally escape that bubble called Reno. Rather than being surrounded by peers who mispronounced the word "oboe," I now found myself in an environment where people understood the value of a good reed, where it was "cool" to play the oboe, where my fellow instrumentalists knew the sound of Bessie's older cousin: the English Horn. Oboe Nirvana: acceptance was based on intonation, not wardrobe; a reed-case was the ultimate accessory and instead of humming Fergie tunes, fellow campers would wink and whisper "Dvorak 9 this week." As soon as I went other places and met other oboists, I found that I wasn't as alone as I had thought. I was a solo instrument in an ensemble of equally distinctive individuals. I was unique, yet part if something.

Returning home was a reality check. I realized that not everywhere could be like music camp. But that didn't mean I had to be ashamed of playing just because people around me didn't understand it. When the oboe jokes began, I felt an entirely unfamiliar sense of belonging and positive individualism-not because I found the comments about how an oboe's intonation could be equated to a dying sheep particularly funny, but because the relationship between my instrument and me was just so unyieldingly right. Being associated with my oboe now felt as natural as someone calling my name; it felt like a part of me.

What had originally started out as an obligatory act honoring my grandfather's memory ultimately became part of my identity. Even more importantly, the uniqueness of playing the oboe became something I appreciated, not avoided. My earlier discomfort with being one of so few local oboists was replaced by a new satisfaction: I wasn't just one of a few, I was one of the few.

Being judged, even for something as frivolous as honking on an instrument that doesn't always make the note you intend, is an obstacle that ultimately enables one to recognize his or her unique attributes. There is no doubt that I will always be inextricably linked to my grandfather through this instrument. But in solidifying that link, I discovered a sense of self-acceptance that I never would have found if I had pursued a more "normal" activity. What's more, having such an uncommon instrument helped me to value the thoughts and impulses of other oboists; there were, in fact, others out there who shuddered at the thought of the oboe solo in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, others who truly saw the value of such singularity in an orchestra, others who also thought it necessary to have such intense relationships their oboes that it became creepy. And I loved the fact that I was one of those select few.

As for me right now, I still struggle relentlessly on my journey to find that perfect reed. And Bessie, unpredictable as she may be, has been with me every step of the way.
hamsterlover26 2 / 4  
Aug 11, 2011   #2
I absolutely loved your essay! It showed your personality and shared something very unique about you. Through the whole essay you talked about Bessie as if she was a person, which added your individual writing spark. The personification also sort of adds humor to the piece, lifting up the mood so it is not just another essay about a girl's love for playing an instrument. I say its just about perfect, good luck! (:
Rechy 11 / 73  
Aug 12, 2011   #3
Wow!, Once I started reading this i couldn't help but continue reading it. This is absolutely eloquently written, but there is the word limit is 500.You need to cut it short,i'm having the same problem with the word limit also.
Nelle - / 4  
Aug 12, 2011   #4
Beautiful theme and nicely written. All it needs is some word-smithing. It has too many words, but some careful editing will preserve the integrity of this essay and you will lose nothing.

Obviously, to get down to the 500 words you need to cut anything that is extraneous. Make every word, every phrase count. Similarly, if you don't need it, ditch it! So, using your very words, but editing them, the first 2 paragraphs might look something like this:

'I have this friend. Sometimes I love her; sometimes I loathe her. She constantly defies my wishes. She can be loud and outspoken when I need quiet. Other times she's shy and indecisive when I want bravado. The only thing predictable is her mercurial personality. My oboe Bessie, is frustrating, high-maintenance, and often annoying. But I don't know what I would do without her.

Having such a capricious yet committed relationship with my oboe, while seemingly crazy, is arguably normal for oboists who usually have similar idiosyncrasies. The quintessential oboist dreads one thing most: Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. We self-inflict even more pain by embarking on the futile quest for the "perfect reed." But the "perfect reed" is not nearly as elusive as teenager's pursuit of something else: acceptance.'
OP lywillis 1 / 4  
Aug 23, 2011   #5
Thanks for the helpful comments everyone!
Powerfuldog 5 / 9  
Aug 23, 2011   #6
Amazing use of personification that appears genuine; you brought your oboe to life and clearly demonstrate your musical passion. The specific details you use paint a vivid and sincere picture of your interests; this is clearly something that you've spent a lot of time on. Good luck with the applications process!

Please read my essay listed below (The first link)...I would appreciate any suggestions since I have written on music too.
MYOMAO 1 / 2  
Aug 25, 2011   #7
Good essay! I believe it is a perfect essay and can help you enter top 10 college!
mikeypz1993 2 / 7  
Sep 15, 2011   #8
Your intro is amazing.
It really captured my attention, that's for sure.

I also really liked the "one of THE few" bit a lot!
OP lywillis 1 / 4  
Sep 18, 2011   #9
Thanks everyone! Any other comments/helpful criticisms on my new draft? Will comment back!
r0400293 2 / 3  
Oct 13, 2011   #10
Love it! you will deffinitly stand out with this essay! so differnent from other ones i have read! Honestly great job!

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