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Forte: Connecting with music, sunshine or no

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Denise Dillenbeck, Yakima Symphony Orchestra concertmaster.

The transition from summer to autumn can be tricky. There’s bustle in the air as people pack up summer things and put on serious faces to get ready for the work of a new season. Sometimes this feels exciting, sometimes there’s sadness in saying goodbye to the long, sunny days.

After working hard at music festivals this summer, I had time away from my violin in August. I usually have some soreness that needs to heal after a busy playing time, and it’s restorative to cease motions the violin causes me to do thousands, even millions, of times, letting muscles rest.

The same goes for the mind; giving my eyes and ears something new refreshes my imagination, gives me new colors to add to my internal palette. Letting myself unfold from the violin allows me to open to wonder at the world. Sometimes it’s hard to come back, settle myself for the practice hours and concerts ahead, face the deadlines and learn the notes.

My stand-partner, Allion Salvador, invited me to play a concert with some friends of his, so in late September I gathered my concentration to overcome that end-of-summer slump and rehearse some beautiful music with these folks. And what an amazing gift this turned out to be! Although our first reading of the pieces had some rough edges, it was still a brilliant reminder that through music I get to have conversations with people that open an amazing space of shared creativity and depth. We’d barely learned each other’s names, and in the next moment we were listening intently to hear everyone’s ideas, accompanying each other through the twists and turns that tempo and emotion took.

We rehearsed on a houseboat in Seattle, and it was magical to go deeper into conversations about how the music should go, while being surrounded by beautiful gray skies and water, seaplanes landing and the gentle breeze. I remembered how lucky I am to make music.

I love getting to meet new people and connect this way! And feeding my imagination and opening my heart can happen close to home, even when summer’s over.

• Denise Dillenbeck is the Yakima Symphony Orchestra concertmaster. Dillenbeck has been a member of the orchestra since 2008 and concertmaster since 2013. She also is concertmaster of the York Symphony in Pennsylvania and the Northwest Sinfonietta in Seattle, and a featured artist with the Lake Chelan Bach Festival and the Siletz Bay Music Festival. Learn more about the Yakima Symphony Orchestra at and about Dillenbeck at

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