Act 9: Whimsically 5
Lee Suh-ah stared at the ceiling in silence.
She could see various strange patterns drawn. There were holes in the shape of stars here and there on the dormitory ceiling.
Staring at that, an abrupt thought popped up in her mind.
‘That’s how the ceiling looked huh.’
Until now, she had never realised it. The only time she laid on the bed was right before sleep, dark with the lights turned off so there was no time for her to see how the ceiling looked.
Despite living three years of her middle school at a similar dormitory, she never had the time to lie down on the bed with leisure.
After murmuring once, she hugged her pillow and enjoyed her rare rest time.
It was really strange.
Normally, she would’ve immediately started preparing for next term’s mid-sems but she currently didn’t want to. Perhaps the body wanted some rest which was understandable considering how so many things happened today. It was natural.
Her face was buried into the pillow as her body stiffened. Everything that happened during the day flashed past her head rapidly.
In despair, she listened to teacher Kang Heewon’s announcement, as self-condemnation overflowed her from within. Unable to hold it in, she ran outside to escape it as a hand touched her shoulder.
And the tears that couldn’t help but fall.
Thinking up to that point, Lee Suh-ah raised a scream and bashed the pillow with her fists.
“Ahhhhh. Out of everyoneeee!!”
Why was it him that saw her crying? He’ll probably tease her for it, or rather, it was certain because they always bickered and nitpicked whenever possible.
Pulling her hair out, Lee Suh-ah lamented at the upcoming future.
How long would it last – one month? Two months? Six months or maybe one year? Since it was Jo Yunjae, he might tease her for life.
She was in despair, thinking back on how her crying face might’ve looked like when a voice suddenly reached her ears.
“Why? What’s wrong?”
Suddenly coming to her senses, Lee Suh-ah raised her head up with a flick. On the other side of the bed, she could see Song Mirae with her body half-raised up.
‘Ah, right. Mirae was here.’
Lee Suh-ah scolded herself inwardly before quickly racking her brain.
“Uh? Ah, umm… ah! Yeah, I suddenly remembered the thing I got wrong during the finals…!”
“Finals? It’s already over so don’t bother~ we’re humans so it’s possible to make mistakes.”
Hearing Song Mirae’s carefree words, Lee Suh-ah let out a small sigh of relief while Song Mirae asked again nonchalantly.
“By the way, where were you during the end-of-the-day meeting? The teacher was looking for you. Yunjae also went missing for some reason.”
Stiffened, Lee Suh-ah halted before unconsciously giving a reply.
“J, just went to the bathroom.”
“Ahah I see.”
Lee Suh-ah felt something prickling her heart when she saw Song Mirae nodding her head.
‘Why did I lie? I could’ve just told her I cried because I was sad about the scholarship. It’s nothing to hide from Mirae.’
Biting her lips, Lee Suh-ah thought.
However, if she said that, she needed to tell Song Mirae about the promise she made with Jo Yunjae regarding the plans over the holidays – the fact that they had decided to attend a contest with just the two of them.
In the end, she decided to stay silent with her lips closed.
She was just doing it for money so she didn’t want her best friend to be pondering because of her.
‘Right, I’m just going to be working…!’
Thinking that, she hugged the pillow as hard as she could with a firm resolution but when Song Mirae saw that, she tilted her head.
‘…Suh-ah’s not feeling good today.’
Song Mirae thought before suddenly clapping her hands and opening her mouth.
“Ah right! When you weren’t there, our teacher told me to give this to you.”
“What is it?”
After searching through the bag with a hum, Song Mirae suddenly raised something up. It was a rectangular paper in a blue cover.
Lee Suh-ah was quite familiar with it – it was a certificate. Blankly, she received the certificate from Song Mirae and opened her mouth with a stutter.
“What… is this?”
“So although the highest achiever this time was Yunjae, they decided to give you the scholarships as well because you studied hard. I think your marks were similar or something.”
When she quickly opened the cover with a dumb expression, she realised that it was true. There was her name printed in bold at the very top, as well as words beneath saying that she received a full scholarship and support in music equipment.
Seeing her read the certificate agitatedly, Song Mirae carefreely continued her explanation.
“It’s written on the scholarship announcement as well~ The student that came first place, or had a result very close to that. It’s obviously possible for you.”
“…But… I was for sure the only one during middle school…”
“Maybe it was because there was no-one as good as you during middle school?”
Slowly, Lee Suh-ah embraced the certificate as a faint smile appeared on her face. Even though she had given up on the scholarship… it was true that there was always a way out.
She smiled but a thought suddenly popped up.
‘Then what was I crying for…?’
A humiliating scene replayed itself inside her mind.
In front of the annoying Jo Yunjae, she was crying like a little child in the middle of the corridor and baffled him. Then, she fell on her bum herself in an unsightly manner.
Her ears turned deep red.
After the finals were over, the school only had one last event to go. It was the end-of-the-term ceremony… but there was actually another event which I had forgotten about.
It was master class, the visit of Timothy Dickson.
Posturing myself in my seat, I glanced around. Within the dark interior, only the stage had bright light shining down. On top of that stage, the teachers were making adjustments and configurations to something while the students talked amongst each other in the audience seats.
The Future Hall – the enormous hall which the Future Arts High prided themselves in, was filled with students and was definitely a sight to be seen.
1st, 2nd and 3rd grade. Every student of the Music Department had gathered for the master class today. Han Dasom who was likewise glancing around suddenly opened her mouth.
“Who was the person coming today again…?”
“Timothy Dickson. He is an extremely famous conductor.”
Han Dasom had an uncertain expression. Her expression reflected that even though she heard he was great, she didn’t know what was so great.
Seeing that, I nodded in understanding.
It was natural because Han Dasom probably hasn’t sung with a proper conductor yet. There was no need for a conductor when singing with one accompaniment after all and it was generally the accompaniment following us while we just sang however we wanted.
But choruses and opera done together with countless instruments was different.
At least four to five and at most tens of performers made sounds. If they all performed as they pleased, the resulting sound would obviously end up a mess because everyone had their own tempo and style.
And it was the conductor’s role to combine it into a united whole. The more performers there were, the bigger the impact of the conductor.
‘They’re literally people ‘conducting’ the stage.’
And that Timothy Dickson from all those conductors? He was a top conductor which no-one could ever deny, even though he had already retired.
When she heard my explanation, Han Dasom replied in admiration.
“I see… then is he teaching us how to conduct?”
“Hmm… I think he will show us an example by fine tuning our school’s orchestra team.”
“That’s how master classes normally go – the students perform and the teacher gives feedback. So I think our school’s seniors would perform and sir would edit it…”
Han Dasom made a disappointed expression.
“It’s the same as a lesson… right?”
I shrugged my shoulders once before turning back to the front.
In the end, that’s what singing was about because it was an artwork which others listened to.
We performed and receive feedback on how it sounded. Finding the best sound while repeating this process endlessly was the objective of the art called music, right?
While Han Dasom and I chatted, I caught sight of an old man entering the stage. He had white hair, a tiny build and a pair of sparkling blue eyes.
It was Timothy Dickson, the little giant that led the greatest opera company in New York.
It’d been a long time since I saw him alive…
I appreciated the sight before me with a myriad of emotions as his first words reached my ears.
[Hello young artists of Korea! It is great to meet you all like this. I’m Timothy Dickson.]
When the interpretation from the teacher in the corner of the hall ended, a thunderous round of applause filled the hall. Soon, the master class began muddled with expectation and excitement and turned out to be quite interesting.
First off, our school’s orchestra performed once at the stage and after seeing that, Sir Dickson gave feedback and talked about the things that needed to be improved.
The general gist was like this.
[It is better to express this song a bit faster. Should we have another go at it?]
[The violin is standing out a bit too much. Should we reduce it by a bit?]
[Excellent! Continue doing it that way.]
Just like that, he only threw out a few words at a time but the orchestra’s sound changed immediately. It made me realise once again why conductors were called conductors.
The method to mix sounds, and the ability to harmonise countless echoes as well as the way to form a gentle music – he taught us those things first hand. Although I wasn’t going to become a conductor, it was still very helpful.
Since music was usually done in groups, I had to match them to form a better sound.
The song presentation of the composing department was a great example.
Matching the sound with one piano accompaniment was hard enough and we had to do endless practice. Inside opera which utilised dozens of instruments… the thing called harmony couldn’t be any more important.
I was nodding my head throughout as Sir Dickson’s master class came to an end. Now, it was time to meet the maestro Timothy Dickson which the principal had promised me with.
Thinking about it, it was my first time talking with Timothy Dickson.
During the master class in my previous life, I only watched him talk with the orchestra from a distance and received the news about his death after a few years.
Today could be my first and possibly my last day meeting him in my life.
With those strange thoughts in mind, I stared at the front when the principal gave a smile and reached out towards us while opening his mouth.
[Hello, sir maestro. These students here are our best students whom our school is proud of.]
[Ah, I see. I feel full of energy myself after seeing these passionate young men. Hi, I’m Timothy Dickson.]
From up close, Sir Dickson appeared just like a humorous old gentleman. His voice fell softly as a full smile hung on his lips. It looked like he was enjoying everything happening in his life.
I thought it would be quite pressuring since I was meeting the maestro but he felt a lot closer than I thought.
After shaking the hands of each and every student present, Sir Dickson soon turned his head over and stared at the principal.
[Thanks for joining and helping me for my pastime activity. Mr Principal.]
[Haha, don’t mention it. We should be the ones thanking. Right guys?]
We were of course grateful because Timothy Dickson was giving us advice. Sir Dickson surfaced a hazy smile before throwing a glance at us. As his eyes glanced over us standing in a line, he nodded and slowly opened his mouth.
[Future Performing Arts High School. I heard it was the school which gathered the greatest performing art students of Korea.]
The clear pair of eyes that did not suit his age stared deeply at our eyes one by one before abruptly closing itself.
[There was something this old man thought while retiring. It would be hard for me to stand on the stage so… what should I do? For music which gifted me with so many things, what could I do?]
In the midst of our silence, he smiled.
[Well, it’s also true that I had nothing to do after retiring.]
Within the faint rounds of laughter, he continued lightheartedly.
[So what I thought of was… to share everything I had to the youths that would lead the next generation, so that the world of music could widen even if by a small amount. If I die, everything I have would all disappear anyway so it’s better if others were to obtain it right?]
After stating that was the reason for the start of his travel, Sir Dickson opened his eyes.
[It would be good if I could provide even a little help in this country, Korea…]
He slurred his words towards the end before opening his mouth yet again.
[Let me hear your performances before anything.]