What a Musician Hears

Image Sourced from San Francisco Sentinel

The last notes of the evening’s recital hung in the air and then faded gently.

The room burst into clapping. Joseph had played his song so well. The trills were clear, the scales precise and the melody sung above the rest like the chime of bells. Julia was thrilled for Joseph, but a small part of her wished he hadn’t played quite so well. He was 15, only one year older than she was, yet he played far above her own level.

Julia’s mind floated back to each and every mistake she had made in her own song. She’d left out a flat at the beginning. Her own scale, simple compared to Joseph’s, she’d stumbled through. Half way through the song, Julia had even forgotten a measure and had to jump to the next section. Hopfully no one had noticed.

In one year’s time she would certainly still be leagues behind where Joseph was now. She wasn’t sure she would ever play with his confidence, and artistic expression.

Julia remained  in her seat well after the recital had ended and everyone else was milling around the desert table, chatting. Her own parents always attended her recitals, but her father had been asked to make an important last minute business trip and her mother was in bed sick with a nasty version of the flu Julia had two weeks ago.

In the end, Julia’s uncle had been the one to bring her here, only he was more interested in the cookies and punch. Looking down, Julia noticed that her hands were gripping her music so tightly that her knuckles looked white, and she suddenly realized that her jaw was clamped tight.

Oh, this was ridiculous. It was just a dumb recital. She’d done dozens before. At least her parents hadn’t been here to hear all her mess-ups. They would have been be so embarrassed.

Julia’s vision blurred and she quickly blinked several times.

Hopefully, her uncle was ready to leave. She didn’t feel like staying to chat to the parents of all those kids younger than her who had done so much better. Walking towards her uncle she could make out what he was saying to one of the mothers.

“I’m always going to the symphony, and the opera.” His voice was deep and carried far. “I must say, after hearing professionals it was a little hard for me to sit through . . . well.” His lips curled upward. It was meant as a smile, but it made Julia’s stomach flip.

A hand rested lightly on her shoulder and Julia turned quickly. Joseph stood next to her, one hand in his pocket. His light brown hair curled around his head, emphasizing his light blue eyes.

Amazing musical skills and great looks. Life just wasn’t fair.

“You played really well, tonight.” He grinned as his hand dropped off Julia’s shoulder.

“Not that well,” she sighed.

Joseph glanced at his shoes and then back at her, “I thought it was nice.”

“Thanks,” she felt a small blush warm her cheeks. “But, it was nothing compared to your piece. That was seriously amazing.”

“I should hope so,” he rolled his eyes, “I’ve been working on that dumb thing long enough.”

She glanced back at her uncle trying to tune out his voice as he exaggerated the pain it caused him to listen to ‘certain music’. Nonetheless, her uncle’s voice carried clearly to her and Joseph.

“That, music?! Ha. You should hear Chicago’s Philharmonic. Now that’s music! I was visiting Chicago last year, and I knew I couldn’t miss the Philharmonic while there. I love music like that – real music.”

The warmth on Julia’s cheeks dropped to a chill and sunk slowly down into her chest.

She turned towards Joseph who was looking at her uncle. “I think I gotta go,” she said in a soft voice.

Joseph’s face slowly turned back towards her. His smile was gone. Instead his lips cut across his face in a straight line. “Your uncle, right?”

She just nodded.

“He’s not a musician is he.”

Her eyebrows dropped, “No. But, how did you know?”

“If he had been a real musician, he would have been able to hear and enjoy the music no matter how well or how poor any of us played. My guess is, he probably didn’t enjoy the philharmonic much more than he enjoyed our little recital anyway. He’s just talking big is all.”

“You think so?”

“Those who truly love music always look past the musician’s imperfections and will allow the music to resonate within themselves regardless.” He glanced away once more, “At least that’s what my dad is always saying. It helps me remember to focus on the heart of the music when I play, and not worry about the individual notes too much.”

“That’s cool.” Around my uncle, people were slowly moving away, forming other groups and starting other conversations. “My mom always says that negativity is the fastest way to push people away from you.”

Joseph let out a small chuckle, “I think your uncle is learning that one right now.”

I felt my mood lift as an idea struck. “Do you think if I invite my uncle in to explain the whole recital to my mother he might catch her flu?”

Joseph’s face lit up, “I don’t know. But I think it might be worth a try.”



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