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Chapter Sixteen

“It has come to my attention that I’m apparently too strict,” Leo said, emphasizing the word strict with quotation marks he made with his fingers. “I’m not sure what that means, but I’ll take the critique as it is.”

Leo was with the orchestra at the practice hall. All the students were unnervingly quiet as they listened to him talk to them form the stage stand, sitting on his high stool.

“What do I do that’s so strict? I’d really like to know. Is it because I don’t let you all be noisy and waste practice time talking and going through your phone?” Leo asked, looking from one face to another. “If that’s what you’re hoping will change, I’m sorry, but you’re out of luck,” he said.

The hall suddenly got filled with noise from the students as they started talking to each other in hushed tones.

“Quiet,” Leo said, clapping his hands before he let out a frustrated sigh. Who would have thought conducting would be this hard? He’d had an idea that conducting had a bit to do with human management, he didn’t expect it to be this much.

He got up from his seat to head to the podium with his conducting stick sitting on it.

“From the top,” he said, raising it, and making the students rearrange themselves as they hurried to join in with their instruments. Usually, people would slack off or complain halfway through the composition, but it looked like they were all trying their best not to get him any angrier than he already was. It was a wise decision on their part because Leo was on the lookout for a scapegoat.

They were going through the symphonies one at a time, and they were presently playing symphony six. Leo listened in for anyone that was out of line, just anyone.

A small smile played on his lips when his strained ears picked up a general weakness from the violin players. He wasn’t going to scold them, no he was going to do something much better and productive.

With the rise of his hand, the whole orchestra halted playing. The students looked towards him with worry in their eyes, watching his gaze to spot who he was going to call out and probably make an example of.

“You two,” Leo finally said, pointing over to the two women sitting at the violin corner at the far back. The blonde petite woman pointed at herself, asking if she was the one being called.

“Yes you, you and your friend beside you,” Leo said, causing the dark-skinned span sitting beside the blonde one to let out a sigh of frustration.

“Come up front, the both of you,” he said as he walked over to the corner on the stand to pull out two stools that were gathered with a couple of others to the center of the platform.

“Oh, come with your violins,” he said when he turned to find the two girls moving through the crowd without them. They looked up at him before turning back to head over to their seats to pick up their instruments. They eventually got them and headed to the raised wooden stage like he’d asked them to. They headed for the stools to take a sit when he gestured towards them, holding on to their violins and bows with worried looks plastered on their faces.

“The concerto for two violins, you two can play it, right?” Leo asked, making the two girls look at each other before nodding.

“You all know the supporting piece, I suppose?” Leo asked, turning to the rest of the orchestra. He noticed them look over at each other, whispering, but eventually, a good number of people nodded at his question.

“Good,” he said before turning back to the girls. “From the top.”

The piece they played came out as uncoordinated and distorted — Just like what Leo had expected. He eventually stopped the two ladies and the rest of the orchestra before strolling about the stage as he looked from one section of the orchestra to the other.

“Your lack of coordination is obvious, isn’t it?” Leo said, turning from the orchestra to the ladies still sitting on the stools. “Why do you all expect me to be laid back if you can’t even play the most basic of pieces in perfect harmony?”

“We hadn’t practiced—”

“An orchestra is a collection of people accompanied by their instruments. You should have adapted to each other’s cues and paces by now,” Leo said, cutting off the first year student they had spoken up. “I’m sure individually you’re all strong in your respective instruments. I know it’s a big deal to get into this school, but don’t carry that pride into this orchestra. If you don’t, you’re to find it extremely hard to pick up,” Leo added before turning.

“Your violin,” he said, walking over to the blonde girl before stretching his hand out for the instrument. She stared at him for a while, before eventually handing it over to him.

“Thank you,” he said, holding on to the violin and placing the bow against the strings as he put his chin on the provided rest, before looking over at the dark-skinned girl with curly full hair.

“We’ll do it together,” he muttered, smiling at her briefly before turning to the orchestra. “Alone, meaning the supporting piece excluded.”

Leo then turned back to the lady who was now ready with her instrument.


They played together. More like the girl played and Leonardo worked with her cues and adjusted his timing to her pace — the same technique he employed with Alejandro, but something was different. Although the piece generally came out better, the girl simply lacked in her playing all together, unlike Al, she was completely unconscious of her partner’s cues and had no solid pattern of her own.

They finished the piece with a round of applause from the members of the orchestra none the less, and Leonardo returned the violin to the owner before turning his attention back to the orchestra. The two young women had returned back to their seats with their instruments.

“Now that you know you don’t know it all, are you willing to listen? Remember that I reserve the right to kick anyone that underperforms out of the group,” Leo said. He noticed a few nods from people in the crowd, and no one tried to challenge what he’d said.

“Good,” he finished before walking back to the podium.

“From the top.”


At the end of the practice session, Leo left the hall and went back to the main building to get his things. He got his bag before strolling through the empty hallway, making for the main entrance before he stopped in the middle of his tracks, remembering that Al was still in the building since Esterphina had extra practice sessions after the school day ended.

I can go and listen to the practice. He thought, nodding to himself before turning and heading towards the practice hall he knew Esterphina and the other clarinet players used. Turning the knob of the wooden door and peeping into the room, Leonardo immediately spotted Al at the far end of the room on a stool with his earpiece on, and he didn’t seem bothered by the students practicing just a few steps away from him.

“Hello,” Leo muttered as he walked into the room. Esterphina and the four other players with her turned their heads his way. Al’s sister smiled suddenly, raising a hand to wave at him.

“Leo! Is the orchestra’s practice over?” Ester asked, making him nod.

“I came to watch you practice, is that okay with you guys?” he asked, looking over at the four other players, three boys, and one girl that Leo recognized as Easter’s best friend. They all nodded in approval, allowing Leo to head over to the stools that had been grouped together to create space to find a seat.

Leo could already spot Al’s head looking towards the direction his steps were coming from with a frown on his face. His earpiece was no longer in his ears, but dangling around his neck. Leo laughed when he took a seat beside the dark-haired man, running a hand through his blond hair before he looked up at the creaking ceiling fan above.

“I thought we made up yesterday, did I do something wrong again?” Leo asked, receiving no response from Al.

“Okay then,” Leo sighed, turning his attention to Al’s sister and her colleagues. “She’s very good.”

Al still didn’t say anything, and now had his earpiece on again. He hummed to the composition that played through the device he was holding in his hand. He’d met with Kenneth yesterday evening, and they’d both decided on a piece to work on for the competition together.

“How are things with Kenneth going?” Al heard Leo ask, his voice faint and distorted as it mixed with the composition he was humming to as well as the piece his sisters and her mates were playing.

“Good,” he said a little too loud. He heard Leo laugh a little.

“I’m glad,” Leo muttered, looking down at his feet, tapping them softly against the wooden floorboards, the vibrations from the action making Al frown a bit.

“Oh, am I disturbing you?” Leo asked, stopping his feet’s movement when he saw Al nod.

“Sorry,” Leo apologized as his voice faded into the music playing around. Al went on to humming along to the music playing from Eater’s phone in his hand, while Leo watched Alejandro’s sister and mates practice.

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