Musical Dreams

In "Mrs. B’s Great Presentation" the author, Noah Hock, tells the story of the meeting of his first great love, music. He is only nine, still in grade school, when his music teacher introduces him to the viola. The way in which the author and his family react to this introduction demonstrates the very strong ties between culture and identity. The author conveys these ties between family and individual identity by expressing his feelings on the subject and how it changed him; this is done through word choice and content.

By contrasting two opposite ideas, music and silence, it is understood that the author is a very strong individual. The author "burst" into his home "raving " about a new discovery that he wanted to play, the viola, "an instrument my mother had never heard of. Her first reaction was silence"(4). This whole story is centered on music, yet the author uses the word silence. The contrast between silence and music gives the reader the feeling of running into a brick wall, his mother’s reaction. His mother doesn’t understand why her son wants to do this and that is understood through the contrast created by the word choice. In the beginning of the narrative the author says his family is not "musically capable"(3). Yet he decides to try and play an instrument. So even though culturally he was not brought up to play music or even listen to it, his identity resonates with both of these.

Almost as strong as the individuality of the author is his love of the music. When the author describes seeing and hearing the instruments for the first time, that is when it is represented most strongly. He describes the instruments as "magnificent" and says he was, "at the edge of my seat"(2). His excitement and curiosity could be contributed to his youth except that he follows through on this exuberance and desire. He doesn’t just feel excited and wish he could play the instrument, he goes out and convinces his parents to let him do so and commits himself to an after school program, using up his precious free time.

The ties between the author’s individuality and his family are illustrated by the content, specifically the determination to play. His mother asks him if he really wants to play the viola and he insists. Even when his mother offers him an alternative, to wait a year and play band, he refuses. He confuses his mother by being so determined about this and not being as adamant about his other extra-curricular activities like football and soccer. For a nine-year-old child he demonstrates remarkable determinism and persuasive skills to get what he wants. He even goes so far as to cross against family tradition. His family is more mathematically minded and he isn’t, however, instead of trying to mold himself into an image of his parents he is strong enough to have his own interests. As the author writes, "I wouldn’t be swayed…I want to play the viola"(4).

This determination comes from a deep and abiding fascination with the musical instruments. When the instruments are first presented the author is obviously excited. He uses words like "revealed"(2) and "beautiful"(3) first seeing the instruments. These words and others give the feeling of excitement at something new being discovered. This feeling is continued when the author describes how he feels about hearing them played, "I was so excited…we would get to sit and listen…What more could we ask for? So, with that, I settled in to listen"(2). This is a nine-year-old boy who is extremely excited and yet he settles down quickly and quietly to listen to these instruments. This shows how deeply these instruments affected him. It is also obvious that he is excited when it is seen how quickly he makes his decision to play one of the instruments. "Within minutes I had decided that I was going to take this class"(3).

These instruments fascinate him but they also change his attitude about music and his music teacher. He says he sees his teacher in a whole new light, no longer is she an old, strange woman, instead she is a fellow soul mate who loves music as much as he does. This is clear from the contrast of description in the beginning, "none of us were terribly fond of our music teacher…She made us all a little nervous"(1), and the way he describes her after, "I saw Mrs. B in a whole new light. She was no longer as strange…as foreign to me"(3). He also says that he listened "intently" to her play "her heart out"(3). Clearly his attitude has shifted.

Not only has his attitude shifted with these newly introduced instruments but his day is affected as well. He describes the class as ending "in what seemed like minutes," and the rest of the day going "by in a blur"(3). This gives the impression of his focus continuing to be on the music, which it is. He also describes himself as "triumphant"(4) when he finally gets his mother to sign the permission slip and turns it in. "Triumphant" is a word generally used to describe the winning of a war or a conquest over an arch enemy. Yet it is used here to describe a young boy being granted permission to play an instrument, something most parents can only wish their child would want to do. This shows how important learning to play really is to the author; he uses a word with several grand meanings to describe how he feels he won. He gets to play and that to him is a great victory.

A young boy’s life dream is discovered in this story, the importance and scope of this is portrayed through the content and word choice that is used. The reader feels the excitement and wishes perhaps that they knew their own life dream, as so few of us do, especially at such a young age. Maybe if all of us could find our purpose in life we too would feel like our author felt in this new beginning, "who could imagine where it would take me"(5). We can all imagine this and maybe one day we will all find what could possibly make someone feel as if their life was only just beginning, pure, untarnished, and hopeful.