Forte: Stepping into the light


Denise Dillenbeck, Yakima Symphony Orchestra concertmaster.

Editor’s note: Over the holidays, Yakima Symphony Orchestra Music Director Lawrence Golan led the American Festival Orchestra on a tour in northern China. The orchestra was comprised of musicians from a number of American orchestras, including many from the YSO roster.

When winter stops ringing the doorbell and actually moves in, like a house guest in his bathrobe on the couch with his feet up on the coffee table, his luggage open in disarray, you know you’re in for the long haul.

After a week of being suffocated by freezing fog, I’m looking for relief as I gaze at the snowy white hills. So it’s a welcome surprise that today the sun is out and the sky is blue, and I can see an almost perfectly round white moon. There is still beauty in this frozen world.

My natural tendency is to want to hibernate when the temperature dips and the town is covered with a layer of ice. Some instinct tells me to find a warm, dark place and curl up there till springtime. The idea of packing my suitcase and heading out on a tour of China with colleagues from the Yakima Symphony and other orchestras is incomprehensible. It’s supposed to be 20 degrees below zero there!

But that’s what we’re doing. And on this tour I’ll be playing a solo with the orchestra.

I want to share a secret. The soloist’s walk from backstage to the spotlight is the longest, loneliest pilgrimage. I warm up in the dark wings, and it seems like I have to cross a huge chasm to get from there to the stage. In the dark, I can’t imagine taking on the challenge of performing for an audience. I feel that pull toward hibernation. Why go out into the searing light? Won’t it be cold out there? Isn’t it taking a huge risk to traverse that chasm?

Thankfully, performing a solo with the Yakima Symphony Orchestra at The Capitol Theatre shines some sunlight and warmth into that solitary journey.

When I walk out and greet the audience here, I feel like I’m home, surrounded by a musical family that has become so dear to me. Together we step into the light and embark on an adventure mapped out by the composer.

Thank you for sharing your light with me. I’ve stored it up, and it’ll guide me when I’m far from home.

• Denise Dillenbeck is Yakima Symphony Orchestra concertmaster. Learn more about her and her role at

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