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To My Violin Teacher

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Mr. Carter Pendell

The hurt I feel when I pick up my violin to play is unbearable. Vivid memories of my violin lessons flash by me in a blur, and I still can't accept the truth. What hurts the most is that I truly believed that I would study music with you for the rest of my life, or until I went off to college. That is not the case here- because you're gone, and you left all your loved ones behind. You, who shaped me in the palm of your hand, are gone like you never existed. You vanished without a trace, without a goodbye.

They say teachers are carried on through their students- through technique, personality and situation- handling. My mother had hopes for me to audition for the concertmaster in my youth symphony- not to actually expect I would get it, but more so that I could give Mr. Pendell the closure, the realization that he did teach me all that I knew. It's as if he's watching me play, even with my new teacher. He's peering from the windows of heaven and smiling down at my progress.

Mozart Concerto Number 3

I stepped on the stage, my nerves in a jumble. My legs were giving out, and my voice shook while I introduced myself to the symphony.

"Hi, I'm Ashley. I'm going to play Mozart for you today."

I heard grumbles and something about "originality."

I inhaled, and let the first chord ring through. My bow shook while I played, but I gradually gained more and more control over my strokes and phrasing. The deeper I got into the music, the more it hurt. It's been so long since I had properly played with feeling, and the first time I properly played without the guide of Mr. Pendell.

A flurry of images and memories clouded my head, which enabled me to scrub away at the violin even harder. I reached the arpeggios and instead of receding with fear of messing up like I usually did, I inhaled and played with the deeps of the violin. I reached into the fingerboard and guided the music. I ended with a flourish, and everyone was silent. As soon as I moved my legs, I could feel fumbling and clumsiness once again, completely contrasting from my demeanor earlier.

I told myself that it was okay if I didn't make concertmaster, it was purely for closure from his passing. Soon after the seating auditions, my conductor already had our chair results. I could feel the warmth and safety of my passed violin teacher, and at that moment, I absolutely knew that it was all going to be okay. Even if I didn't make first chair, I knew I still made him proud. Because he never failed to praise me on my technique, my endurance, and my diligence, I knew that I tried my best.

My conductor made his way from last chair to first, and slowly, everyone got to sit in their chairs, until I was the only one left standing. He pointed to the concertmaster's seat.

"And here is Ashley."

When I tell you I was shocked, I really was. The only thing I thought of at the moment was Mr. Pendell, and how I made concertmaster with the very last piece he taught me. It wasn't exceptionally turgid, and compared to a lot of others, it was in fact, purely simplistic and downright easy.

"Congratulations, Ashley." I seemed to hear a familiar whisper by my ears.

As I walked out of the concert hall with my friends, I got a lot of "Good job"s and "Nice playing." The world was suddenly spinning so quickly, and I had no idea how to stay still.

I saw a yellow butterfly that day. It fluttered to me and peered at me with obsidian eyes.


How I Found Out

The night I found out about his death, I was already in a bad mental headspace. My mother had tried to keep the news from me, but an email from Mr. Pendell's daughter came in.

"Thank you for your condolences."

Genuinely confused, I then tapped on the chain of emails prior to the most recent. My heart quickened, and my breathing became shallow. I didn't know how to register the news- I had talked to him that last Tuesday, I had seen his brilliant smile, his wonderful playing. Frozen, I searched for any misunderstandings in the emails that I'd read.

"Mom, what happened?"

She sat me down on that soft bed, and held me as I cried.

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