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Hello, fellow Medium members! My [pen] name is Viola Altiste. I am a 26-year-old Canadian professional musician. Currently, I am a section violist in a symphony orchestra. When I’m not practicing, I can be found playing Animal Crossing or learning a new language. As a Canadian, I am always looking for ways to improve my French. I have also taken an interest in Spanish and Italian this past year.

My musical journey began at the age of six when my parents put me in violin lessons. As time went on, I wanted to learn other instruments. I began piano lessons…

It’s hard to keep up in a constantly changing society

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Photo by Jonathan Daniels on Unsplash

Recently, I stumbled across a widely shared Facebook post intended to reassure current undergraduate students applying for graduate programs that rejection is completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of.

This person mentioned that they had only been accepted into one graduate school and still had a successful music career. In fact, the schools that rejected her asked her many years later to come back as a guest artist to work with the current students.

At the end of the day, your success in the music field comes down to your work ethic. When you audition for an orchestra, the…

Healthy boundaries are essential

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Photo by Tim Bennett on Unsplash

Most likely, you have been told to put your phone on do not disturb, and reduce your screen time a few hours before bedtime to help your body fall asleep.

I remember before I discovered these settings on my phone, I’d toss and turn into the wee hours of the morning from indulging in late-night messenger chats with friends. Even when I found a break in the conversation to politely say good night and put my phone into airplane mode, I was fully awake from staring at the bright screen and being jarred by the buzzing noise.

Now, if someone…

Do university orchestras really need that much rehearsal time?

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Photo by Kazuo ota on Unsplash

As a professional orchestral musician today, I found university orchestra to hinder my professional development, as ironic as that may sound.

In university music ensembles, there is a wide variety of skill levels. Universities make money by offering many programs and accepting as many students as possible. Some students may have been taking music lessons since they were toddlers, and others may have only discovered their passion for music in their late teen years. Conservatories will have more stringent entry requirements, but universities have more generous requirements for undergraduate music programs to get the highest number of paying students possible.

Confessions of a former Internet troll

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Photo by Ludovic Toinel on Unsplash

The Internet is a wonderful yet very bizarre place.

About 18 years ago, I was introduced to the World Wide Web. Back then, my main purpose of using the Internet was to check on my Neopets and Harry Potter websites.

As a socially awkward kid, the community of online forums and chat rooms was incredibly appealing to me. I could connect with thousands of people from all over the world with similar interests. When kids were mean to me at school, I could go on the Internet later to hang out with my “friends.”

That would be fine if I…

You’d think we left that behind in high school

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Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

Public performance is a huge part of a musician’s development. If you took music lessons when you were younger, you probably played in many recitals and concerts. It was probably nerve-wracking to play for your fellow students and their parents, but it was an amazing opportunity to share all of your hard work.

As you might imagine, the performance aspect does not go away in university. The main feature of a performance degree is the year-end recital, starting typically around one’s third year of undergrad. …


Or should you be concerned about offending others?

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Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

While Facebook and Instagram usage is on the decline for today’s teenagers and young adults, I remember the old days when I couldn’t wait to get home from school so I could go on Facebook. During school holidays, I’d sit at my computer all day, refreshing the Facebook homepage to see what my friends were doing in an attempt to cure boredom.

Before gaining a reputation as an old person’s app, Facebook was an escape zone for teenagers from the adults in their life. We could openly rant about our teachers at school and write whatever nonsense jokes came to…

Valentine’s Day is no exception

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Photo by Rinck Content Studio on Unsplash

As a late-bloomer to dating and relationships, Valentine’s Day meant nothing to me. Every year on February 14th, I went about my day as if it were any other day. If anything, I was a fan of observing Singles Awareness Day and treating myself to the discounted candy on the 15th.

Despite my independence, it was still difficult seeing social media posts of my friends out on elaborate dates with their significant others. I couldn’t help but wonder if and when I would ever have a turn to celebrate this silly Hallmark holiday with someone.

My turn, if you will…

The end of a Canadian Era…

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A winning coffee cup from Tim Hortons’ Roll up the Rim to Win contest. Photo by author.

For those who aren’t from Canada, we have a fast-food coffee shop chain called Tim Hortons. Every year in February or March, they host a contest known as Roll up the Rim to Win. Millions of Canadians look forward to the prospect of winning a car or $1000 gift card on their morning coffee run. The reality, however, is that you’re lucky to win a coffee, donut, or latte.

I lived for the thrill of Roll up the Rim season. Every morning, I faithfully stood in line at the overcrowded Tim Hortons on my university campus to see if I’d…

It was a relatively seamless transition

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Photo by Joel Wyncott on Unsplash

When I began writing on Medium in November 2020, I felt like I was already at home, even though freelance writing was completely new to me.

I am a professional musician and there are many parallels between music and writing. While there is the opportunity for employment in both fields, both musicians and writers make a living primarily through freelancing.

I consider myself fortunate that I have a symphony position, however, in my particular orchestra, I only work and get paid for seven months of the year. …

Viola Altiste

Canadian violist and freelance writer. Viola Altiste is a pen name. Twitter: @violaaltiste

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