It was a day like any other day. I was fidgeting in my seat while Mrs. Lilyengrin, my teacher, was giving a lesson on the multiplication tables, but I wasnt paying too much attention. The other kids sat listening to the lesson with about as much enthusiasm as I had. I had always been able to do math, but I was never as interested in it as others in my family. Math was not really my cup of tea, so I sat and waited for the lesson to end.
Then, somewhere in the middle of my daydream, Mrs. Lilyengrin said, "Alright, its time for music class. Everyone line up at the door."
Some people say that this second is the first moment of the rest of your life. If this statement were ever true, it was true of this moment. The other students and I were not really fond of music class. I really enjoyed the class itself, but none of us were terribly fond of our music teacher Mrs. Blankenship (Mrs. B for short). She made us all a little nervous. This woman had to have been about 85 years old but she had more energy than all us kids put together. Mrs. B ran a classroom like you wouldnt believe. She was a wonderful teacher for younger kids but us fourth graders were far too mature to be inspired by her antics.
My class walked silently in single file to the music room. All of us were expecting to sing silly songs or play recorders for an hour like normal, but Mrs. B had something different in mind. When we got to class we sat on the risers like normal, but Mrs. B wasnt there yet. Mrs. Lilyengrin said that she was on her way and would be there in just a minute. With that, Mrs. Lilyengrin sat down to wait with us. Not more than a minute later Mrs. B burst into the room like a whirling dervish carrying something strange with her. It seemed to be a case, but what was inside? She set the case down and began class.
"Kids, we are going to do something a little different today" she began. "Starting next week I am going to teach a class after school once a week. It will be a beginning string class."
First of all, not many of us even knew what she meant when she said "string class" but I was immediately curious.
Mrs. B continued, "we will meet every Monday after school gets out and learn how to play stringed instruments."
Then she opened the case she had brought in with her and took out its contents. "This is a violin," she said as she presented the magnificent thing to the class. I was at the edge of my seat, but it didnt stop there. Mrs. B put down the violin and snatched up another case from the corner that I hadnt noticed before. This case was a bit larger. When it was opened it revealed another instrument, similar to the violin but a bit larger. It was beautiful. This was "a viola" said Mrs. B. She continued, opening two more cases, each bigger than the next. They revealed two more instruments, the cello and bass. They resembled the violin and viola but were significantly larger.
Once Mrs. B had shown all the instruments to the class she said, "Now, everyone in the string class will have to pick one of these instruments to learn how to play. To help you choose which one you like best Im going to play all of them for you now."
This was great! I was so excited. Not only did these instruments fascinate me to no end, but we would get to sit and listen to Mrs. B all through class instead of having to sing. What more could we ask for? So, with that, I settled in to listen.
Mrs. B played all the instruments one by one, and as she played my excitement grew stronger. As she calmly drew melodies from the strings I saw Mrs. B in a whole new light. She was no longer as strange as everyone else saw her. Mrs. Bs personality was no longer so foreign to me. Within minutes I had decided that I was going to take this class. The only thing I had to decide now was which instrument I wanted to learn. I listened intently to my teacher as she played her heart out on all of the four wonderful instruments. Immediately I was able to eliminate two of the instruments. The bass was such a slow moving, sluggish instrument. And besides, it was bigger than I was, which can be pretty intimidating when your nine. On the other hand, I equally disliked the violin. It just sounded so high and shrill; it was too piercing for me. That left the two inner instruments: the viola and the cello, but which one should I play? This was a tough decision. I liked both the instruments very much. How could I possibly chose between them?
Music class ended in what seemed like minutes and my class was shuffled off to lunch. The rest of the day went by in a blur. All I could focus on was those instruments. Which should I learn to play, viola or cello? For the longest time I couldnt decide. They both sounded so warm and beautiful. I simply couldnt decide between them. In the end though the gentle tone of the viola and the non-obtrusive nature of its sound connected with me in such a way that I simply couldnt resist its draw. I decided then and there that I would play the viola.
All that remained now was to convince my mother that this string class was as good an idea as I thought it to be. Now I first have to explain something about my family. My family was not very musically capable. My mother listened to a lot of music, but never much enjoyed playing music. I had grown up listening to Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin, not Beethoven and Mozart. Needless to say, my decision caught my mother a bit off-guard. When I burst in the door after school raving about how I wanted to play the viola, an instrument my mother had never heard of, her first reaction was silence.
Slowly, she began to come around. "Are you sure about this?" were the first words out of her mouth. Up until this point the only extra-curricular activities I had been involved in were baseball and football. And I had never been so adamant about either of those games. Following her path of reason, Mom continued in minor disbelief. "When spring comes and you want to play soccer with your brother you wont be able to; youll be busy with this class. Are you sure thats what you want?"
When I managed to convince her that I was, in fact, serious about wanting to play a musical instrument she reverted to a new technique. "Why dont you wait until sixth grade, then you can be in the band during school. That way you wont have to go to an after school class." But I wouldnt be swayed.
"But I dont want to play a band instrument" I rebuked, "I want to play the viola."
Conversation continued in this manner all afternoon. I relentlessly pestered my parents, as young children are prone to do. And Mom continued to ask if I was "really sure" this was what I wanted to do. But as the night wore on I began to wear my parents down, and by the end of the night I had convinced them.
The next morning I returned to school triumphant. Two days ago I would have never imagined being so excited about something like a musical instrument, but here I was. I held in my hand the signed permission slip granting my acceptance into the class. As I handed Mrs. Lilyengrin the slip of paper I overflowed with excitement. I was starting something new and exciting, and who could imagine where it would take me.