The school auditorium was filled with the excited voices of twenty-five fifth and sixth graders as they walked to their places on the risers on stage. Rosemaria, being one of the tallest in her class, stood in the back, while Priscilla, one of the shorter students, was in the very front.
“Okay, everybody. Let’s settle down.” Mrs. Betz, everybody’s favorite teacher, walked down the center aisle of the auditorium with a big smile on her face. She was in her early twenties and, according to anybody’s standards, was very beautiful with short blond hair and a perfect figure. “We’re just going to go through some of the basic instructions for our program today to make sure we’re all on the same page.”
She reached into a cardboard box that was sitting on a chair and took out a handful of audiocassettes and began handing them out. “These are tapes of the two songs we’ll be singing. I gave you the sheet music already but singing along with the tape will help you learn your parts. They’re labeled either alto or soprano so make sure you get the right one.”
The very thought of having to sing made Rosemaria’s blood run cold. She couldn’t carry a tune if you paid her with a boxful of Snickers bars.
Mrs. Betz noticed the expression on Rosemaria’s face and chuckled. “There may be some people here who think they can’t sing. That is not true. Who’s heard of Christopher Plummer and Katharine Hepburn?”
Nobody raised their hand except Rosemaria. Mrs. Betz acknowledged her with a nod. “Who were they, Rosemaria?”
“They’re famous actors. He was in The Sound of Music and she was in movies since before my mother was born.”
“Exactly. Both of these famous actors sang in musicals. Christopher Plummer did not have a classically trained singing voice, but he half sang, half talked his songs in The Sound of Music, and it worked! Katharine Hepburn sang in a Broadway musical and did the same thing. The reason it worked was because they had such passion and verve that no one cared that they didn’t sound like trained singers.”
Connor, a boy standing in the front row, raised his hand. “What’s verve?” he asked and there were a few smirks from people who didn’t know what it meant either.
“Rosemaria, do you know?”
“Verve is when you’re completely involved and committed to the material and give all your energy to the role.”
“That’s what your mom does when she’s acting, right?”
“So being able to stay completely on pitch does not matter. If we give it our all, the audience will react to that.” Mrs. Betz turned to one of the African American girls standing in the front row. “Besides, Alisha, along with singing the solos, will sing the chorus with everybody else. You can follow her lead and not worry at all what you sound like. Just have fun!”
Alisha, standing next to Rosemaria, smiled confidently. She already knew where her future would lead.
“At our next rehearsal, in two days, I’ll have your ‘Just Say No’ T-shirts and will hand them out to you. But don’t wear them until the performance in two weeks. Does anybody have any questions?” Nobody did. “Okay, then. Let’s do our best to make Nancy Reagan proud!”
Connor raised his hand again. “Who’s Nancy Reagan?”
Some of the kids laughed, and others rolled their eyes.
“Now, now, there is no such thing as a stupid question. Nancy Reagan was the first lady when her husband, Ronald Reagan, was president. She started the ‘Just Say No’ campaign to encourage kids not to take drugs. And schools everywhere have programs to support her efforts.”
The door to the auditorium opened, and Rosemaria saw her mother walk in and take a seat in the back. Oh God! Now what? She still had hours left in school. What was her mother doing here? Mrs. Betz dismissed the group, and Rosemaria ignored Priscilla who was waiting to walk out with her. Her mother stood but didn’t approach Mrs. Betz. She just waited by the door until Rosemaria reached her.
“Why are you here? Is something wrong?”
“I’m taking you home now.”
“But I still have classes.”
“I have to be home all afternoon because my agent is going to call and let me know if I got the part.”
“Can’t you just take the call on your cell?”
“No. Whatever happens, good or bad, I want to be home, not out driving around.”
“And for that I have to miss school?”
“Don’t get smart with me, young lady. Let’s get your things out of your locker and go.”
With a heavy heart, Rosemaria did as she was told.
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