Authors: Ann Bryant
Secrets, hopes and dreamsâ¦ School friends are for ever!
Silver Spires is the best boarding school in the world! I'm in a dorm with five brilliant friends, and there's always something exciting going on â like the Silver Spires Star contest.
To enter the contest you have to write a song and play it live onstage. I'd really love to do thatâ¦then I'd feel like a proper musician, just like I've always wanted. The problem is that I hate performing in public â it's my biggest fear ever. But can I risk missing the chance to prove myself?
For all my piano pupils, past and present!
“No, I can't!” I insisted, shaking my head firmly. “Not in a million years!” I added, in case any of my friends hadn't quite got the message.
“But you're so talented, Mia!” said Georgie, my very best friend. “You play the piano likeâ¦brilliantly, and you sing likeâ¦brilliantly!”
I couldn't help laughing. She looked so funny, throwing her hands in the air dramatically, as only Georgie can.
“And that song you made up is lovely,” added Naomi, smiling.
can't,” I repeated. “I'd just be too scared. I mean
too scared!” I folded my arms, and probably looked stubborn and immature. But I couldn't help it. The thought of entering the Silver Spires junior singer/songwriter contest simply filled me with dread.
“I know what you mean about being nervous,” said Grace. “I still get nervous every time I do any competitive sport.”
I smiled gratefully at Grace. “And this is in front of the whole school,” I said quietly. But in my heart I knew that even if it was in front of just the Year Sevens, I'd still never be able to manage it. “I'dâ¦die.”
“Which wouldn't be very helpful if you were just about to sing!” said Georgie, looking at me as though I was hopeless.
“Don't pressure her,” said Naomi. “Not everyone's as outgoing as you, Georgie!”
I thanked Naomi for that, with my eyes. She's the wise one of the group and I was really pleased that she understood how I felt.
“Well I think Mia needs to be pushed!” said Jess, folding her arms. “She's just too modest!”
The five of us were sitting under one of the trees on the grass behind the main Silver Spires building. Well actually only four of us were sitting under the tree. Georgie was stretched out in the sun. She'd rolled her school skirt over at the waist to make it as short as possible, and she'd tied a knot in her shirt so her stomach could get tanned as well as her legs. It was morning break, and there were loads of other Silver Spires students dotted all over the huge grassy area, some of them lying back sunbathing, others just sitting and chatting. It was the second half of the summer term and also the beginning of the lovely hot weather. It gives me such a nice feeling to be able to look round and know that I'm a part of this beautiful place. Silver Spires is just the best boarding school in the world.
My eyes flicked round my friends and landed on Georgie. “You're getting very pink,” I told her. “Did you put sun cream on?”
She sighed. “Why did I have to be born with such pale skin? Why can't I be black, like Naomi? Or at least a bit darker than I am, like Grace.”
Grace is from Thailand and it's true she's got lovely olive-coloured skin. She sighed and mumbled something about thinking her looks were boring, while Naomi laughed, then turned suddenly serious and stared into the distance. “We should just be happy with what we are, shouldn't we?”
I guessed she was thinking about some of the poor people she's met in Ghana, which is the country she comes from. Naomi is actually a Ghanaian princess, but she hates people knowing that. She feels very lucky to have been born into a wealthy family, and she spends loads of time in the school holidays working for a charity that builds wells in Ghana.
“Well, I'm just as pale as you, Georgie,” I quickly said, because Naomi looked sad, and I wanted to bring her back to the here and now.
“And I've got freckles but
don't care!” laughed Jess.
“Yes, that's another complaint I've got,” Georgie said, sitting up suddenly. “I'd be fine with being pale as long as I had a âdon't care' attitude like you two!”
So then we all laughed, and I felt happy that we'd got away from the subject of the Silver Spires Star contest, because the very thought of singing my own song in front of an audience made me feel quite panicky, and I didn't like my friends trying to push me into it. It was embarrassing and pathetic that I had such a fear of performing in public, especially because music is so important to me and I love playing the piano. But what happened when I was six years old has left a terrible mark on me.
It was my first local music festival and I was playing a piece by Handel. We were all supposed to announce our pieces and say the name of the composer before we played. I remember looking out at all the faces and trying to find Mum and Dad and my baby brother, but Mum's seat was empty. It turned out that she'd had to take my little brother out because he'd started to cry, but I didn't know that at the time and I just felt frightened to see all the faces but no Mum. When I came to announce my piece, in my worried state I couldn't remember the name of the composer, but I knew it reminded me of a doorknob, so that's what I saidâ¦ “
, by Door Knob.” And I remember wanting to cry because I didn't understand why people started laughing. And I got so upset then that my fingers didn't seem to work properly and I played the piece terribly and got the worst mark of anyone.
The next year, my teacher tried to persuade me to enter the music festival again but I refused. When I was eight I finally agreed to give it another try, but I felt so sick when I got onto the stage that I had to run off and straight out of the hall, otherwise I would have been sick in front of the whole audience.
After that I never entered one of the town music festivals again, and neither did I play piano in concerts at my primary school, even though my teachers and then my friends tried and tried to persuade me. In the end the teachers gave up because I think Mum must have had a word with them, but my friends wouldn't leave me alone. None of them knew what had happened at the music festivals, and it was far too embarrassing to explain, so I just kept on making excuses that I'd hurt my finger or didn't have a piece ready, or even that I'd lost my music, which all seems ridiculous now.
It was a relief when the Year Six concert at my old school came and went without me having to play in it, but then I came here to Silver Spires and now it looks as though my problems are starting all over again. The real trouble is that I
be able to play in public, and I so wish I could. After all,
musicians perform in front of audiences and that's what I want to be, more than anything. Music is such a big part of my life that I ought to just make myself get over my fearâ¦only I can't. And even if I managed, by some miracle, to play the piano in public, there are two extra layers of nervousness with this Silver Spires Star contest. You have to write the song yourself,
I've only written the one song that my friends had heard in my life, and I don't know if it's any good. I wrote it almost exactly a year ago, last May, when I was in Year Six at my primary school. I was feeling really sad at the time because I knew I was going to be coming here to Silver Spires Boarding School in September, and although I was excited in some ways, I also knew I'd really miss Mum and Dad and my little brother. And I was right, because I did get homesick during the first few weeks, and I even found it hard coming back to school after the holidays for this third term. But I'm lucky because I've got the best, best friend in the world.
Georgie and I met on the induction day and then had a brilliant surprise on our first day at Silver Spires when we found we'd been put in the same dorm. The dorm is called Amethyst and it's in Hazeldean boarding house, which we naturally think is the best boarding house. There are six of us in the dorm â me, Georgie, Naomi, Katy, Grace and Jess, and we spend loads of time together. Like right now, because Katy was rushing over to us, looking very excited.
“Where've you been?” Naomi asked her.
“Bumped into Mam'zelle Clemence and guess whatâ¦ She told me the Silver Spires Star contest is going to take place in the theatre! And guess what elseâ¦ She's actually asked me to be part of a little committee to help decorate the theatre so it looks really striking and wow-ish! I tell you, Mia, I'm so glad I've got to know Mam'zelle Clemence through fashion club, because she's totally full of good ideas. This Star contest is going to be the coolest thing ever!”