“Teacher, please choose me! I want to sing in your choir.”
I looked at the pleading boy. He was seven years old. I had just finished the auditions in his classroom, and he was not se- lected, because he was terribly out of tune. What could I do for him? I had carefully picked out 60 harmonious kids and did not want to ruin the group with an off-key singer.
I told him I would think about his request, really only to get rid of him.
This story happened more than ten years ago, when I was working in Venezuela, then a beautiful and prosperous country, with large budgets and free activities for everybody.
The school to which I was as- signed as music teacher was in the downtown part of the city. The students were mostly children of merchants who worked in that area.
But the child who is the principal character in this story had one disadvantage. He was Colombian. His family had just moved to Venezuela, and in those times being Colombian in Venezuela was not easy.
His classmates made his life impossible. They laughed at his accent and where he came from. Finally, I decided to help him because I could not bear the cruel mockery that he received. This little boy had a strong desire to improve himself. He was smart and enthusiastic, and he really wanted to learn music.
I started teaching him to play the cuatro, the national instrument of Venezuela. He learned fast, even faster than all his classmates. Little by little, the Colombian boy that everybody had made fun of became the admiration of his classroom—with an army of friends who took turns lis- tening to such skillful playing on the instrument he had learned to play such a short time ago. (What wonderful results we can get through music!)
But this young boy wanted more. He also wanted to sing in my choir. I had avoided him in all possible ways, but there was no respite. His perseverance won out, and I finally gave him the opportunity to participate in my choir. What a disaster!
The first rehearsals were torture—for me, for him, and for all the other children present. He was the only one out of tune, so if something was wrong, we knew who was re- sponsible. The teasing and laughter came back, but this child seemed able to overcome everything. His capacity to ignore bad comments and continue without being affect- ed was amazing. (Hurray, parents!)
I really started working with him. First, I said, “Sing more quietly, dear.” Hopefully, no one else would notice that he was out of tune. He could also listen to his classmates and try to imitate their voices. His enthusiasm was transmitted to all of us. After many classes and techniques, and much patience, the off-key child became a precious jewel. He was an exemplary student, with such a strong desire to learn. But every day I had to correct his pitch. I had never had another student like him!
One morning during rehearsal, however, something happened. My sixty-one children sat before me with my out-of-tune star in the first row, as always, singing with a contagious enthusiasm and looking at me with thankful eyes. But there was something different that day. I did not hear anyone singing a discordant note. For a moment I thought the child, tired of being corrected, was only pre- tending to sing. Skeptically, I moved closer. He was really singing. I stopped the entire choir, looked directly at him, and asked him to sing a solo. He stood up and sang in front of all his classmates. With perfect pitch! I did not know whether to laugh or cry. He finished singing, and we were all silent for a moment. Suddenly, all at once, the rest of the children clapped and clapped. I gave him a hug. His enthusiasm and persistence had performed a miracle!
This child is among the teachers in my life. He taught me that perseverance is much more important than talent. He taught me that adversities in life should make us stronger and should be faced with enthusiasm. From him I also learned to never exclude anyone with a desire to learn.
Dear child of long ago, wherever you are, I would like for my son to grow up able to face life with your enthusiasm and your perseverance. May God always enlighten your steps!