Author:Andrea Randall & Charles Sheehan-Miles

He didn’t want us to break the rules. We were required to adhere to the formal, stultified rules of strict canon, rules which were in place four hundred years ago. That was fine. But he didn’t say we couldn’t combine rules. Bach had done it more than once, as had a very few other composers. I tuned out the classroom, letting a melody form in my mind, visualizing it, then adding layers, one on top of the other, until I felt a loud tap against my desk.


My eyes flew open. Fitzgerald stood there. His eyebrows were squeezed together in irritation, a furrow running right down the center of his forehead. I could feel the heat coming from his body he stood so close.


“Are you still with us, Miss Marshall?”


I blinked a few times, my heart racing as I stared into his eyes. “Yes. I was thinking about the assignment. Sorry.”


He turned and walked away, returning to the lecture as I once again found myself needing a cleansing breath.


Thank God his attitude sucked, or I could have been in real trouble.












It grated on me how Savannah continuously challenged me in class. I would never have tolerated it from any other student. Ever. But I’d watched her for the previous two years, and she was an accomplished musician and incredible student. That required some special consideration, but my patience only went so far.


Not to mention that her behavior encouraged others to do the same. Nathan hung onto her every word, apparently enamored with her radiance, and he’d followed her into challenging me in class earlier this week.


Nathan was unlikely to question me again. He left defeated at the end of class, tight-lipped and angry after showing up to our intellectual gunfight with a knife. But the fact was, they were both in for much tougher challenges than me if they intended to be successful. It was my job to help them prepare. I wasn’t enthusiastic about teaching this course, but I’d agreed to it, and I intended to do my best.


Savannah though ... she was impressive. Two weeks ago I had assigned the class a difficult challenge: to compose a four-minute strict canon. She had followed the assignment to the letter, but then turned it completely upside down, by composing an accompanied canon in contrary motion. Complex. Layered. Exquisite. One of my cello students, Marcia, accompanied her, a flute and cello duet which captured all the complexity of some of the best Baroque music, but also expressed a longing, and a depth of emotion I rarely felt hearing students play.


Her music, even her movements, were imbued with an inherent grace, a beauty I’d seen a hint of during her audition, but had pushed to the back of my mind. I’d never encountered an undergraduate with such depth of skill. I closed my eyes, trying to shut out the music blaring from the speakers in the restaurant, instead focusing on the string of notes she’d played.


“Are you even listening to me?”


My eyes flew open. Karin—my date—stared across the table at me, her face twisted in annoyance.


“I’m so sorry,” I said. “I was just thinking about something that happened in class.”


I spotted our waiter, a poorly shaven young man. He had a tiny brown spot on his shirt. I waved him down. “Excuse me. Perhaps someone could shut off the ghastly noise coming from the speakers?”


The waiter stood there, dumbstruck. I jerked a finger at the speaker for emphasis, and he said, “I’ll, uh ... talk to the manager.”


Karin said in a teasing voice, “The girls at the office are right ... you really are insufferable sometimes.”


I shrugged. “Hardly. This noise is awful.”


She shook her head, a grin on her face. “You think any music written since the 18th century is awful.”


“No, that is not true. There are a number of 20th-century symphonies I absolutely love. But this?” I mock shuddered.


Karin went back to her story. And the truth was, I wasn’t terribly interested. James had insisted on setting us up for this date, sure that Karin and I would hit it off. She was attractive enough. Blonde hair, and an attractive body. But she knew little about music. How she could possibly work for the conservatory and not actually care about music? She might as well be a heathen who just happened to work in a cathedral. She went on for quite some time about the politics of the school administration, something that I cared exactly nothing about.


But I knew I was expected to say something. “That sounds ... terrible.”


She gave me a look as if she knew my words weren’t sincere. Then she gave up.


“What about you?” she asked. “When you aren’t busy with the orchestra, or teaching, what do you like to do?”


I felt my eyebrows move toward each other. “Practice. Or go to the symphony, or the occasional ballet. I’d love to see the Bolshoi someday.”


She leaned back in her chair. “Movies? Do you golf?”


I flexed my hand defensively. “Sports don’t interest me. Especially any that could injure my hands.”


She shook her head. “So really ... it’s all about the music with you?”