“Genevieve,” Mr. Tamez said one day. The band kids had a big concert coming up, so Mr. Tamez had given them the period to practice on their own. But no music, aside from Genevieve’s, was actually being played. Ankur was circling the room with his cheese. Tara was rubbing her fingers. Josh was glaring at a piece of sheet music like it had just insulted him.
“How do you feel it’s going?” Mr. Tamez asked. His foot wasn’t tapping at all.
“What do you mean?” she asked brightly.
“Your work ethic is commendable. But do you feel you’re improving?”
Genevieve shrugged. “Sure.”
“Well, I was wondering if you might like to try something new. The triangle?”
“Why? I like the tenor sax.”
Mr. Tamez nodded.
“I know I’m not very good,” she stated, watching a rain cloud pass over Mr. Tamez’s face.
Genevieve blew a note that came out as an ear-piercing honk. Then she started to laugh. Slowly, a smile spread across Mr. Tamez’s face. Genevieve returned to honking out “Three Blind Mice,” but at a faster pace, like an overwound music box.
Josh looked up, grinned, and shouted, “Go, Genevieve! Go!” He snatched his tuba and played along, but softly, so as not to drown her out. Tara grabbed her piccolo and played in harmony. Ankur swallowed his cheese and riffed on his trumpet. And Mr. Tamez’s foot resumed tapping—with fervor, as if a whole jazz band were playing in his head. They slowly formed a circle, jamming together on their weird little tune.
Mr. Tamez sprang to the door and opened it, gesturing for them to file out behind him. And off they marched into the afternoon sunshine: Josh, his tuba thundering; Ankur, his notes as smooth as silk; Tara, her fingers hummingbird fast. And of course, Genevieve, her pitch flat, her tempo uneven. But every few steps, she bent her knees deeply and gave a dramatic whirl.
When they reached the school yard, their song floated into the air. It wasn’t the most perfect or the most beautiful. In fact, it wasn’t at all perfect and not even a little bit beautiful. But their eyes crinkled up and their shoulders relaxed, and to everyone who listened, it sounded like joy.