Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Music (03/08/07)
TITLE: The Downbeat
By Shari Armstrong
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She kept her balance as her daddy reached for the hymnal from the rack. He flipped to the page, took a deep breath, and sang the first note. His deep voice rumbled in his chest, tickling her cheek. She closed her eyes and dozed off, listening to the notes and moving to the steady rhythm of his breathing.
When the song stopped, she opened her eyes and realized that she had missed the entire song. The next hymn started and this time she grabbed her daddy’s finger and moved it along, following the words in between the notes. She sang along when there was a word she recognized.
She woke up and raced downstairs, turning on the tv. She changed the channel until she found Bugs Bunny and Friends. She was amazed at how Bugs was able to wave that stick and tell all those musicians what notes to play. She giggled as she watched the singer turn all different colors when trying to hold the note long enough.
She sang along, “Bum bum bum.” She copied the conducting moves exactly. She just knew she wanted to do that when she grew up.
Mom came in to sweep the living. She began to hum along, matching the pitch of the vacuum cleaner.
“Please, Mom? Can I be in band? Please?”
“I don’t know. The instruments can be kind of expensive.”
”Dad has his old trombone? I could play that.”
”It’s a bit big for you.” Her dad smiled. “Your arms wouldn’t reach to 6th position.”
Her mom wiped her hands off with the towel. “I’ll see if your grandpa still has his old trumpet, if he does, then you can join band.”
She hugged her mom, “Thanks.”
“They said I have to get another instrument. Grandpa’s trumpet is leaking too much air around the valves. My teacher said I could switch to the French horn. The school owns those.”
”I don’t see why not.”
She grinned. “I’ll be the only one. Nobody else is playing it.”
The director lifted her baton, getting ready for the downbeat. She took a breath, played the first note with the rest of the 5th grade band, but it didn’t sound like it did when they practiced.
The director gave the cutoff after a couple measures, turned to face the audience. ”I’m sorry. We need to start this one over again.” She turned to face the band again and gave a new downbeat. We played and before she knew it, The Sunrise Waltz was over, but she still had a few more notes to play. She had her first accidental solo.
She came home and dropped her backpack on the floor. “Mom, it’s not fair.” She let the flood of tears she’d been holding back since 6th period fall.
“I was the first one in his office to sign up for solo and ensemble contest, but because I’m the only Freshman, they ‘don’t have room for me’”. I really want to go.”
”There’s always next year.”
She saw her orchestration professor enter the music library. She took off her headphones. “Hi, Mr. B.”
He smiled. “Well, I’ve decided to use your arrangement of the alma mater for the Parents’ Day game. You’ll rehearse the band and direct it during pregame.”
She jumped out of her chair and bounced around, stopped and looked at him. “You really picked mine?” She was amazed that he didn’t pick one of her classmate’s. She always felt a step behind everyone in class. “Seriously? Mine?”
”I’m so nervous.” She wiped her sweaty palms on her uniform pants.
Her dad wrapped his arms around her shoulders and gave a squeeze. “You’ll do fine.”
She watched her parents walk off to find seats as she moved to her place in line with the rest of the horn section.
The marched onto the field, played the fight song. She walked up to the podium, set her horn and her hat down. She spotted her parents, smiled and turned around to face her peers.
She took a deep breath, raised the baton and gave the downbeat.
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