“Look. Let’s get real here.” Jackson stepped out from the baby grand piano. “Do you really want to do well in the competition, or not?”
Twenty pairs of feet shuffled nervously. Someone giggled softly. Several people cleared their throats as if getting ready to cough.
Paul, a lanky young man, swept his right hand in the direction of the choir. “You just gave us this music last week. We never even went over it once. What do you expect? If it’s perfection, you’re not going to get it.”
Jackson looked down at his hands which were hanging loosely by his side. He shook his head slightly. “I expected you to practice on your own. To have gone through the piece several times. To be familiar with the music.” Jackson raised his eyes and looked at each member thoughtfully. “Did any of you do that?”
Samantha, a pretty redhead, and Marcos, a stocky baritone raised their hands tentatively.
“Is that it?” Jackson planted his hands on his hips and stared aggressively at the rest of the choir members. “Only two of you? What’s wrong with you people?”
“Calm down,” Paul said. “The competition is weeks away. Be patient with us. Work with us. Teach us.”
Jackson turned and walked down the main aisle of the church, his shoulders slumped. He smoothed back his already neatly combed hair and sighed. He looked up toward the ceiling as if seeking divine intervention.
Paul stepped before the choir with a pleading look on his face. “Listen. We’re good. The best. We want this, right?” His eyes made contact with each of the members standing before him. “We can do it. Not just be good, but good enough to win.” He leaned forward slightly and smiled. “We’ve got to want this and put in the effort. Each of us.”
Marcos nodded. “You know Paul’s right. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve dreamed about this. Being on a big stage. Singing before a panel of judges. Going up against other choirs. Winning the whole thing.”
“Me, too,” Samantha said. “I realize that not all of you can sing a piece without hearing it first. That’s okay. We’ll work together, help each other. What do you say?”
Everyone smiled and nodded.
Samantha turned toward Jackson. “Please come back. Give us another chance. We’ll get it right the next time. And if not, then the time after that.”
Jackson walked back down the aisle. His eyes glittered as if filled with tears. He nodded. Spread his arms out as it enfolding the members into his body. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, that’s what I wanted to hear. This has to be something you’ve wanted so badly your teeth hurt just thinking about it. A dream you’ve held tight.” He paced back and forth, his arms waving passionately as he spoke. “I believe you can win this thing, but only if you stop dreaming and start performing. You’ve got the talent to win the recording contract. Be stars.”
Jackson sat on the piano bench and placed his fingers over the keys. “Shall we give it one more try?”
Twenty heads nodded and twenty faces smiled. When they sang, they were perfectly in tune. Their voices filled the church with angelic harmony.