(1) It was the first day of the orchestra class. Ethan hadn’t borrowed a viola from the music teacher, like Sam did. He hadn’t rented a cello from a local shop, the way his sister did. Ethan didn’t buy a used violin from a pawn shop either, like his mother suggested. Everybody on the orchestra class bus showed off their instruments and told stories of how they had gotten them. Ethan listened, but he kept his instrument in its case, under his seat. Everyone would get to see it during orchestra class.
(2) The bus slowed to a squeaky halt, and the doors pushed open. All the fourth and fifth grade students, who were so excited to have their first day of orchestra class, began to get a little nervous. They were in school with sixth graders now, and seventh and eighth graders. It was a little bit scary. Ethan’s sister was the first kid to speak. “It’s that way,” she said. Everybody filed behind Emily as she led them to the orchestra room.
(3) The group passed a small horde of older kids making rude remarks. Most of what they said was impossible to hear since it was all muttered and mumbled. But every once in a while, they would catch an entire sentence. One that was particularly memorable to Ethan was, “Music babies in a line. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.”
(4) “What does that even mean?” Emily shouted back. It only made the bigger kids laugh. “Don’t worry about them, Sis,” Ethan encouraged her. The rest of the group seemed pretty frightened.
(5) Emily and Ethan had a big brother who had played violin in the middle school orchestra. They had been to the school several times, and they easily led the small, quivering group down the hallways, around the corners, and through the courtyards until they reached the orchestra room.
(6) Emily swung the door open and stepped in first. “Good morning, musicians,” a voice rang out, almost singing. “Good morning, Mr. Baker,” Emily replied. Then a chorus of fourth and fifth graders said, “Good morning, Mr. Baker.”
(7) “I’m so glad you young musicians are here,” Mr. Baker said enthusiastically. “The band here is far more popular,” he continued. “It means a lot when you make choices to play the viola or upright bass instead of the flute, trumpet, or saxophone.” “We all think string instruments are awesome!” a voice yelled. “That’s because they are. Of course they are,” Mr. Baker agreed. “Now let’s see what you’ve got.”
(8) There were only seven elementary students joining the orchestra. One of them pulled an upright bass from a huge case. Three came with violins, and one student had brought a viola, the violin’s larger cousin. Emily pulled a cello from a large case, and that just left Ethan. His case was different from any of the others. All the other cases shared a very similar shape, even though some were larger, and some were smaller. When it came to Ethan, everyone noticed that his instrument case was an entirely different shape than anyone else’s. It was shaped a lot like a lollipop or a sucker. It had a skinny neck that ended in a perfect circle.
(9) “Is that…” Mr. Baker couldn’t bring himself to finish his sentence. Ethan placed his instrument case on the ground, unlatched the clasps and opened the case. He pulled out a white and silver banjo. “Yes, Mr. Baker,” Emily said. “It is.”
(10) “Well, a banjo is not typically an orchestra instrument.” Mr. Baker said, walking across the orchestra room. He added, “I just may have some banjo music though.” The students flashed a collective look of shock, and Mr. Baker opened a large closet and shuffled through its contents. When he turned back to the students, he was holding a case identical to Ethan’s.
(11) Ethan never acted nervous, and his sister never got nervous. But this time, Ethan was a little anxious. He had wondered if he would be able to play his banjo in the orchestra. His sister was convinced that the idea was ridiculous. Now she wasn’t so sure the idea was that far-fetched.
(12) “Like I said, a banjo is not a typical orchestra instrument,” Mr. Baker repeated, as he opened his case and pulled out a white and gold banjo of his own. “But I also don’t happen to be a typical orchestra teacher. I’m sure we can work something out.” Mr. Baker finished his sentence and finger picked away on his banjo.