Excerpt: Beyond the Music


ViolinPlayer-dreamstime_xs_55996800May sunshine cast into the classroom, accentuating marks and scratches in the dark wood above which dust swirled in shafts of light, giving the place a sense of antiquity.

Bret packed his violin slowly, placing it into the case lying open on his chair. Around him, the class filed out.

“Mr. Killeen, can I see you for a minute, please?” Professor Simmons’ expression was kind in that way you soothe a child you’ve scolded. Once the last student left, he extended his hand toward a chair near his solid desk. “Sit down.”

Bret frowned, took a deep breath, and exhaled as he sat.

. . .

Later, as he walked through campus with Nicole, he relayed the meeting to her.

“Too much flair,” Bret mocked, rolling his eyes. “You know, I think if he was going to criticize, he should have given a better explanation—and then offered a more workable solution.” He studied her face as she walked. “Well? Don’t you think?”

“You’re probably right.” Her face looked as glum as he felt. “There’s just one thing I can’t get out of my head.” She adjusted her backpack. “He said, ‘If you were doing a solo—or were the only first violin in a quartet …’”

“Yeah? So?”

“You know what that means to me, Bret? It means you’re not meant to blend in. You’re not meant to follow the crowd. You never were. You’re a creator.”

“Yeah, no shit. That’s what I always burned for.”

Nicole pressed her lips together in disapproval. “You have to stop seeing yourself like that.”

Bret threw his hands in the air and turned to face her better, walking sideways for a few paces. “It’s not me seeing those things as negative.”

She cocked her head. “Well, don’t let others judge you.”

“Don’t let others judge me?” he said, his voice rising. “You think I let others judge me? They simply do—and then decide where I’m allowed to go in life!” He stabbed his index finger into the air, pointing at invisible people. “You pass. Good job. You can go get an income. But you—you fail, you little non-conformist freak. Go back and get it right.”