“Okay,” I tell the middle school band as we are putting the final touches on their version of “I Wanna Rock and Roll all Night.” “So first Alyssa’s solo, then the drum solo which I still have to write, then Jordyn’s solo, then the a cappella chorus, finally one more chorus and the ending and we’re good to go.” One student’s face clouds over; another’s lights up. “I had an idea for the ending,” the bright-faced girl suggests. “What if we play F and G from ‘You keep on shouting..’ and end on the A?” We listen to the YouTube version, and as it turns out, that’s pretty much what Kiss does. “Perfect!” I say. “Let’s do it!” The cloudy girl calls me over and quietly says, “But we only have four more rehearsals.” Then as I start to answer, she brightens and I say, “Exactly. Four more weeks, but eight rehearsals. Plenty of time.”

“Plenty of time.” Well, it is… and it isn’t. Certainly, I can write that drum solo, we can smooth out the transitions between the different sections of the Kiss piece, maintain two other songs that are already in good shape, and hopefully polish up the middle of “Fireflies” well enough that we’re able to perform that song too. It’s an ambitious program. Listening to them now, it’s hard to believe that half this band had never played a rock instrument when we formed up last September. They still make mistakes, yes, but they have a good sense of what they’re supposed to be doing and how it fits into the whole. Sophia, playing much more quickly and smoothly now, still has the same look of joy she wore the first time she plugged in an electric guitar and played a loud, dirty G chord. Maah is moving beyond the drum parts Kyra first taught her last October and adding ever-more complicated beats. Kyra herself flits from drums to piano to lead vocals with ease, anchoring the group with her solid sense of timing. Jordyn and Franny hold down solid bass lines. And Alyssa, who joined in January, quickly integrated herself into the group and handles lead guitar parts with a quiet self-confidence. All of them sing, and sound beautiful together. Or spirited. Whatever a specific song needs. With all this talent, and eight rehearsals, we have plenty of time to finish preparing a solid show for late May.

But all the same, eight more rehearsals doesn’t feel like nearly enough time. Images pass before me of Franny playing her electric bass upright as a reminder to me she wants to learn acoustic bass next year, Sophia smiling as she finally masters the transition from the opening lead of “Dirty Little Secret” to the first power chord, Maah saying, “Oh, yeah. I got it.” as she masters a tricky rhythm, Kyra spontaneously leading the group through Rihanna’s “Take a Bow” which almost instantly became a signature song, Alyssa learning her first lead solo in just one week, or Jordyn suddenly stopping playing all together and when I stop too and ask her what’s up, saying with a certain awestruck pride in her voice, “We sound so good!” Most of the members of the group are 7th graders and will happily be back, but the number of times we will all play together are rapidly diminishing. Each run-through of each piece carries added significance, and the lingering notes of each last chord sound increasingly wistful.

Earlier today, as I walked through the math/science classroom, I noticed a little list on the white board with the note, “Olivia and Franny are so close to checking off one year out of six.” That means over five more years of smiling at them around the school and watching them grow. But it also means only a few more weeks of Humanities 7, of “Can we read today?” and “How did we get on that topic?!” and “Could we make a unit out of this?” Someone else has written “42 days!” on another white board. 42 days can fly by. And they will. But 42 days are also a gift.

Summer vacation is surely coming, and will be welcome. But for now, it can wait. We have an ending to work out.

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