“Guten Morgen, Fräulein.”
“Morning,” I replied to all three as I walked into the kitchen. I stood by Ludwig in front of the stove to get myself some breakfast, having to bump hips with him to get him to move over. I smiled at the scowl that crossed his face. I sat down at the table, raising my eyebrows at who was sitting across from me. “Well, hey there, sleeping beauty. What are you doing up so early?”
Roderich rolled his eyes and took another bite of his sausage. “I’m always awake at this time, _____. You’re the one who’s not out of bed till noon.”
I smirked. “Yeah. So, what’re you up to?”
He sighed. “I’m a music teacher und conductor of the orchestra––”
“You’re a music teacher?” I put my fork down before I had even taken a bite. This was genuinely the first I had heard of Roderich’s being involved in the music business. “Why the heck didn’t you tell me?”
Roderich blinked. “I didn’t think you were interested.” His brows furrowed slightly. “Why? Are you interested in being a musician?”
I made a little laugh. “I already am one. I play the clarinet.”
“Oh,” Roderich said with slightly raised eyebrows.
“She played for me, Roderich,” Feliciano chimed in. “She’s really good!”
“Is that so?” he uttered. “Well then, if it is alright with all of you, I would like to take _____ here with me when I leave for rehearsal.”
Ludwig scoffed. “That is completely out of the question. She is––”
“Totally going,” I interrupted with a wide smile on my face. “I always wanted to see a professional band behind the curtains.”
Roderich sighed in annoyance. “It’s called orchestra. Und you need to be ready to leave in fifteen minutes.”
“Sure thing, Roddy.”
He groaned as I got up from the table and walked out to go change out of my pajamas. I smirked when I heard say, “This is going to be a long day. . .”
“Wow,” I breathed out when I walked into the orchestra’s rehearsal room and Roderich switched on the lights. “Nice practice room. Got extra rooms for sectionals and everything.”
Roderich nodded. “Ja. Now get your clarinet out and warm up.”
I compliantly sat down and opened my clarinet case, putting my baby together with usual care. “How are you, Jethro, baby?” I said to the wooden instrument. “Time to wow some people.”
Roderich looked up from his score sheets. “Who are you talking to?”
I pointed to my clarinet. “Jethro. My clarinet.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You named your instrument?”
“Yeah. Don't you?”
He looked liked he was going to say something else, but kept it in and turned his attention back to the scores in his hands. “Alright.” He put the sheets down on a stand and brought another one toward me. He set it down in front of me. “Did you bring any music with you?”
I nodded. “Yeah. It’s in my bag.” I bent over to dig it out when the sound of the door opening echoed through the room. I lifted my head and saw a young man with dark hair and a small instrument case in his right hand.
“Guten Morgen, Herr Edelstein. Ich––” He noticed me holding my clarinet gently in my lap and said, “Wer ist das? Ich dachte, sie wollten keine Privatschüler.”
Roderich shook his head at the man. “Ich nicht. "Tue ich nicht. Das ist eine Freundin aus Amerika. Sie spricht nur English.”
The man nodded, and I caught a hint of contempt in the gesture. “My apologies, Frau,” he said curtly. “I am Erik.”
“I’m _____,” I replied, holding out my hand.
He glanced at my hand a bit disgustedly, then turned to Roderich and whispered something in German. Roderich responded also in German, an edge in his voice. Erik spoke again with a sharper edge. Roderich sighed in exasperation and said, “Erik, take your seat und begin warming up on your own.”
Erik angrily took a seat and opened his case, which I then discovered was carrying a clarinet.
“You play clarinet, too, Erik?” I asked.
Erik’s head snapped up, the reed in his mouth wiggling as his mouth opened slightly. He looked as if he was shocked that I would even be talking to him. His shocked expression soon turned into one of irritation. “Ja. I’ve been playing since I was three years old.”
“Wow,” I said, impressed, “you must be really good. I’ve only been playing for five years.”
“Hm,” Erik breathed out through his nose, and continued putting his clarinet together and got out some music sheets.
“When you said you were a musician, _____,” said Roderich, picking the score sheets back up, “I assumed you had been doing it longer than just five years.” He looked at me. “So, how good are you, then?”
“Huh?” I said, taken aback at his very personal question. I looked down at the floor and rubbed my neck sheepishly. “Well, I can’t really judge for myself, but I’d say I’m pretty good.”
He nodded and looked through the scores again. He scanned the pages of each until he found what he was apparently looking for. He pulled out one sheet and placed it on my stand. “This is the part for first clarinet. You may begin practicing it.”
I examined the piece and title. “Allegro” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I smiled in recognition as I fingered a few of the notes. “Oh, I love this song!”
Roderich and Erik looked at me, surprised. “You’ve played this?” asked Erik.
I nodded. “I played it this past school year for my spring concert. I especially love the part where we go––” and I began humming the tune for my favorite part of the piece.
Roderich chuckled slightly and agreed that he liked that part as well, while Erik rolled his eyes. The door opened and in came a young woman with long blond hair carrying a violin case. She looked at me and blinked. “Herr Edelstein, wer ist das?”
“Ich sage es dir, wenn es jeder hier erfährt,” said Roderich calmly.
She nodded, unsure, and took a seat and got ready. The next twenty minutes or so was filled with young musicians entering the room, asking Roderich about my being here, and getting out their instruments. I was a bit surprised to see that there were only four clarinetists, not including me.
When everyone (I assume) had arrived, Roderich stepped up on the podium and looked down at me. “_____?” he said gently. “Would you come up here for a moment, please?”
“Oh, okay,” I answered quietly as I stood up from my seat by the other clarinets and stepped up onto the podium next to Roderich, cradling my clarinet in my arms.
He placed his arm on my shoulders and said to the orchestra, “Everyone, this is _____ _____. She is a friend from America visiting for the summer. I don’t want anyone to speak German around her, because she doesn’t understand it. I want you all to treat her with the same respect as you do me.” He pat my shoulder. “Alright, you can sit back down now.”
I returned to my seat and listened as Roderich instructed the other musicians. Once they had turned to the right music, Roderich said that I could read off the person next to me. I scooted my chair over closer to the clarinetist next to me, who looked at me a little mortified. “What are you doing, Fräulein?” she whispered.
I adjusted my seat and whispered back, “I’m getting to where I can see the music.” I lifted my head to look at the music, which was “Allegro”. I smiled and brought my mouthpiece up to my lips, waiting for Roderich to begin conducting. He lifted his hands up and the song was underway. I felt slightly embarrassed when I was the only one who played the pick-up note, but soon got over it and enjoyed playing the rest of the piece. Roderich stopped the orchestra around Measure 17 to comment on the flutes’ articulation. I took the time to ask the girl beside me, “So, how long have you had this?”
“Two days,” she said tersely.
“Oh.” A moment of silence passed over the clarinetist before I said, “What are your names?”
Erik answered. “You already know me. This is Gertrude.” He gestured to the woman to the left of him. “On the other side of her is Johann.” Johann smiled and did a little wave at me. Erik then pointed to the woman beside me. “And this is––”
“Eva,” she interrupted him.
I nodded and smiled slightly. “Nice to meet you.”
Roderich finished talking to the flutes and lifted his hands again. We picked back up at Measure 15 and made it all the way to Measure 40, stopping only because Roderich wanted to compliment my playing. Apparently, I was the only clarinetist––the only person in the whole orchestra, even––that knew the piece already. I blushed at the praise I was receiving, but it quickly vanished when I saw the other musicians’ glares directed at me. We continued, starting at Measure 38 and stopping once again at Measure 62, Roderich talking to the French horns this time.
By now, my mouth was feeling quite dry, and I remembered the water bottle I had packed in my bag. I silently got up and went to my bag against the wall. My hands froze as I heard the other clarinetists whispering amongst themselves. They were speaking in German, so I couldn’t understand most of it, but I did manage to translate a few words.
“. . .Mädchen. . . Amerika. . . Dummkopf. . .” One of them said something like, “Who does she think she is?” and another said what sounded like, “Taking our place.” And then another that I clearly translated into, “All Americans are selfish and stupid.”
I clenched my fists around the bottle and held it close to me, my shoulders hunching over. I slowly stood back up and headed for the door. I walked down the hallway until I reached the exit, then darted outside. The sun was out, shining down on the fountain out front so that the water sparkled. I sat down on the edge of the fountain, opening my water bottle and taking a sip. I held it to my lips again but stopped and looked at the clear liquid in the plastic bottle. I held it over the pool of water spit out by the fountain and tilted it over, the water falling in. I poured it slowly as I began humming my part to “Allegro”, carefully differentiating the articulations by the way I breathed out.
When the bottle was empty, I put the cap back on and held it upside-down. After a moment, I tossed it carelessly into the pool. I took off my shoes and socks and pulled up my pant legs, dipping my feet into the pool. A sigh escaped my lips, and a smile spread across my face as the water cooled my feet. Eventually, I swung my legs back and forth, causing the clear water to splash here and there and onto the concrete edge I was sitting on. As I continued to oscillate my legs, I started humming “Allegro” again, closing my eyes and lifting my head up toward the sky.
My eyes shot open and my legs froze in mid-swing. I turned around to see Roderich standing behind me. “Oh, Roderich. . . Hey. . .”
“Why did you walk out during rehearsal?”
I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. I tried again, and still no words, no noise escaped. I sighed and drew my dripping wet legs to my chest. “They hate me.”
He shook his head. “_____, I think you’re overreacting. They don’t really hate you––”
“I heard them, Roderich,” I said suddenly. “They called me an idiot. They said that all Americans are selfish and stupid. . .” I felt like crying, but I somehow managed to keep it in as I looked at Roderich’s surprised expression. “Did I do something? Is there something wrong with me? If there is, please tell me.”
Silence passed between the two of us, the only noise being the chirping of the birds flying overhead. Roderich let out a tiny sigh and sat down next to me on the edge of the fountain. “Nein, Mädchen. There is nothing wrong with you. Anyone who says otherwise is a fool.” He pat my shoulder gently and kept his hand there.
A smile tugged at my lips. “I guess I just haven’t been exposed to the full-on band drama yet. Sure, there’s plenty of it back in my band, but this. . .” I sighed in discontent. “Why does there have to be so much damn drama? It makes me sick how desperate people are for attention.”
Roderich nodded. “I agree. I don’t understand it either.” He turned to me with a smirk on his lips. “Und to be honest, I think you are a better clarinetist than any of those in there.”
My smile grew and I giggled. “Thanks, Roddy.”
“Mm.” He stood up. “Now, I think it’s time we got back.”
“Right.” I grabbed my shoes and socks and began putting them on my still damp feet.
I looked up as I slipped my right foot into the shoe.
“It’s called orchestra.”
A smirk still on my face, I raised an eyebrow. “I know. But I call it that for a reason.”
“Und why is that?”
I finished tying my shoes and stood up. “I’ll tell you when I talk to the band.”
He rolled his eyes and walked with me back to the rehearsal room, opening the doors for despite my protest. “You don’t have to open the door for me, Roddy,” I chided.
“I know,” he replied. “But I feel I should. After all, Elizabeta would have a fit if she found out I wasn’t being a gentleman.”
He held the door to the rehearsal room open for me and I entered, the orchestra staring at me and then Roderich when he came in. Roderich nodded at me, and I took it as the okay for me to step onto the podium and talk to them. I faced the orchestra and took a deep breath. “Ever since I got here, you people have been nothing but rude to me. I can understand how being in a band can drive you crazy. Believe me, I’ve been there. But that’s no excuse for the way you’ve treated me. Sure, I’m from America. So what? You don’t see me bashing on Roddy because he’s Austrian.” I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Roderich was blushing, possibly from my using his pet-name in front of his entire orchestra. “My point is that we should treat people the way we’re supposed to be treated. People are going to be different from you, but that doesn’t give you the right to think there’s something wrong with them, that they’re inferior or superior. Being in a band is stressful, but it doesn’t always have to be.”
I heard Erik scoff, and I crossed my arms and raised an eyebrow at him. “Got something to say, Herr Obnoxious?”
Erik quickly shrugged the insult off and replied candidly, “I can understand how living in America has limited your vocabulary, but it is called ‘orchestra’, Fräulein. We are not a ‘band’.”
I sighed. “For your information, my vocabulary is quite extensive. And no, we Americans are not as egotistical and lackadaisical as your German ass thinks.” Everyone in the room was silent from shock now. “Oh, come on,” I said. “If you guys haven’t heard that word before, you’re more sheltered than I thought.” I cleared my throat, attempting to get back on subject. “Anyway, I know it’s called an orchestra. But I call it a band for a reason. And a damn good one. When you hear the word orchestra, what comes to mind?” I paused a moment, then went on. “Well, to me, I think of elegant musicians in more elegant dresses and tuxes playing even more elegant music. But when I picture that I think, ‘Where’s the fun?’ ‘Where’s the self-expression?’ You see, when I hear the word orchestra, I think professional. Strictness. Up-tightness. Self-isolation. That’s not what I want in a musician of any kind. I want a warmth. I want there to be a bond shared between the musicians and the music they play with each other. And that’s what I think when I hear the word band.”
The room was noiseless now, and I quickly stepped off the podium and looked at Roderich. He smiled warmly and pat my head. “Now that is a good reason.”
“So,” said Ludwig as Roderich and I entered the house, “how did it go?”
I smiled at him. “It went great. The other clarinets were hating on me, but I showed them when I got up on that podium and––”
“Gave an award-winning speech about how music is about self-expression und love und all that bologna?” he interrupted.
I put my hands on my hips. “Alright, Mr. Sarcastic.”
I turned around to look at Roderich. “Yeah?”
“I would like you to come with me to band rehearsal again tomorrow, if it’s alright with you.”
I blinked, then smiled at the new word that had come out of his mouth. “Sure, Roddy.”