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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Flat (01/03/13)

TITLE: F flat
By Christina Banks


Only five more minutes before my music student arrives. I should be preparing to teach, but I can’t stop thinking about the information that my doctor sent home with me. There has to be some mistake.

I’ve always thought I was healthy, but a future full of needles and self-inflicted blood tests looms ahead of me. I hate needles, and the sight of blood makes me nauseous. I close my eyes and shake my head. The tests have to be wrong. No one in my family has ever had Type 1 diabetes.

The paperwork is sitting on my dining room table and I can see it from my place in the studio. I pace the floor, my mind touching every possible implication. My doctor seemed so pleased to have caught the condition this early. I’m not pleased at all. This diagnosis is too hard for me.

Please God, take it away.

There is no audible answer. No sign from heaven.

Oh God, please.

A knock on my studio door startles me. James is standing there, trumpet in hand. I smile tightly and wave him in. It’s time to teach.

I try to focus, but we are though the scale exercises, lip slurs, and rhythm challenges before I can get my mind on the lesson.

James pulls out his piece for the coming festival and starts to play. He’s only had the piece for a few weeks, but he’s done well practicing in that time. I close my eyes, listening to the tone of his instrument; smooth and luxurious. This young man is a joy to hear.

A sour note makes me grimace. I open my eyes and look at the sheet music in front of him. I hold up my hand and he stops playing.

“Please play that last section again, starting at measure forty-three.”

James complies, warming the room with his rich sound. I smile until a note sets my teeth on edge. I stop him immediately.

“Do you see anything odd about measure fifty-one?”

James studies the music. “Just a misprint,” he shrugs.

“That’s not a misprint.” I point to the accidental marking before the note.

“But there’s no such thing as F flat.”

I pull his attention to the piano sitting in the corner. “You are right to say there are no black keys between F and E, but you are incorrect to say that there is no F flat.” I’ve been through this same discussion with almost every one of my students. “Remember a flat is simply a half step down from the regular tone. F flat is the same as E natural.”

James looks skeptical. “Why didn’t the composer just use E natural then?”

“Take a look at the music. Because the score is in the key of A flat, the E is flat. In measure fifty-one there are two E flats, one before the F flat and one two notes after. The composer might have used the F flat to make the music easier to read.”

“It makes it harder.” James insists.

“It won’t be so hard once you get used to it.”

Neither will your diabetes, a little voice seems to say.

“I don’t like it.” James folds his arms across his chest and glares at the music.

I smile in understanding. “You might not like it now, but that F flat is going to add depth and resonance to your festival piece. You’ll come to appreciate it someday. Now start the section again, and listen for what that F flat does to the music.”

If you let it, your diabetes could add depth and resonance to your life. You may come to appreciate it someday.

James grumbles a little as he raises the trumpet to his lips and starts the section over. I close my eyes and listen as the music washes over us. His sound wavers momentarily as he transverses the F flat. Yes, that is much better. He finishes the piece and looks at me.

“Well?” I ask.

“I still don’t like it,” James frowns, “but it’s not as bad as I thought.”

As James leaves the studio my eyes wander back to the dining room table and the papers from the doctor’s office.

You don’t have to like it, but diabetes isn’t going to be as bad as you think.

Maybe it is time for me to stop whining about the diagnosis and embrace my personal F flat.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Carolyn Ancell01/10/13
As a musician, of course I was drawn to reading your piece immediately. As a musician with another adult-acquired challenge that requires needles and blood, I was fascinated with your writing, and appreciated every word of it. May I join your F-flat Club?
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/10/13
This is a great story. How humbling it is when God invites a child into our lives to show us the way. You did a grand job of showcasing the topic. Though not being musical some of it sounded like Greek to me but the message was quite clear and even a tone-deaf me got it and can appreciate it. :)
Margaret Kearley 01/11/13
This was wonderful to read. I am not musical either but so appreciated the 'dual-message' that came across so strongly in your story. You illustrated beautifully the way that God uses the 'everyday' to speak to our hearts. Thankyou.
Noel Mitaxa 01/11/13
This is a very instructive piece musically; and very edifying in its life application as well; with great balance and restraint in both aspects.
Bonnie Bowden 01/11/13
This is a well written story. I couldn't agree more with you about blood and needles. Good dialogue between the MC and the music student.
Ellen Carr 01/12/13
I really enjoyed how you likened the challenge of getting used to the F flat to getting used to diabetes. I must admit I tend to agree with James' view about F flat (Why not just put an E in?) but I'm only a little bit musical, no expert! Well done.
Sharlyn Guthrie01/13/13
Very well written, and a great example of how we can apply everyday lessons to our own lives if we will only let them speak to us.
C D Swanson 01/15/13
This entry has so many layers of application to life in general. It was an interesting and detailed story which I thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks.

God bless~
Carolyn Ancell01/17/13
Congratulations on your well-deserved win.
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/17/13
This was my favorite story of all this week; it was wonderfully written. Congratulations on your EC.
Michael Throne01/17/13
I very much enjoyed this piece, having had the same conversation with my piano teacher several years ago. I appreciate the lesson the MC learns, but appreciate even more the idea of learning as she did from everyday situations and problems. Great story!
Joe Moreland01/17/13
What a great story. I love the way you bring us along on the MC's struggle to accept the diagnosis. You used the dialog and situation to show your message very effectively. In reading this I am reminded that God also embraces the philosophy of "show don't tell".

Excellent work! Thanks for sharing it with us and congratulations on a well deserved EC placement.
Leola Ogle 01/17/13
Ah, I love this! Congrats on your placement and God bless!
Bea Edwards 01/18/13
Congratulations on your clever contrast piece. The practical lessons presented in this engaging story add to the reasons why it's a well deserved win.