Wednesday, August 17, 2022

WEP August 2022 Challenge: Moonlight Sonata

It's time once again for another Write...Edit...Publish challenge. This month's musical prompt is Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. If you'd like to join in, feel free to visit the WEP site!

At first, I wasn't certain how to tackle the prompt this month. I've been busy getting my kids rady to go back to school next week, so that's had my mind preoccupied. Then I got an email from the school district, and the contents of that email provided me with the inspiration I needed.

This wasn't an instance of being joyfully inspired. In fact, the email left me feeling sad and worried. The United States has been struggling with a shortage of teachers over the past few years, but my children hadn't really felt the effects of that shortage like the will be this year. My two boys are in middle school, and this year they have yet to find a science teacher and a band director. They plan on having a long-term substitute teach science until they can find someone permanent, but who knows how long that will be? The position has already been open and advertised for months. As for the band director, there is no real solution. The school is trying to find people willing to teach some private lessons for interested students, and they're still searching for someone to fill the job. As of now, though, there will be no band. My oldest plays the saxophone, and my other son plays the drums. They were so excited to start learning how to play, and they enjoyed playing music with their bandmates. Now they're disappointed that's not happening this year. I'm hoping the school finds someone so they can start band back up partway through the school year, but with the number of teaching positions left unfilled across my state right now, it's feeling bleak. 

Teachers are so important, and they have such a tough job. We need to find a way to draw more people to this vital profession and to keep them in it. So much of the future depends on it.

Anyway, thank you for tolerating my brief rant. I hope you enjoy this piece.


The tinkling of a piano cut through the air. The high, trilling notes floated down the hallway on the warm August breeze. 

Lorraine knew she should simply return to study hall, but surely the teacher wouldn’t care too much if she took another minute or two longer to return from her restroom break? She clutched the hall pass in her hand as she let her feet carry her the wrong way down the hall.

As she approached, the musical sounds paused briefly. She also halted in her tracks for a moment, waiting to see if the unknown piano player would continue.

The notes began again, haltingly, and an octave lower than they had previously been. The melody formed with each note played, and while the execution was hesitant and awkward, she soon recognized the song. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. She’d know it anywhere. Beethoven used to play in the background while her mother sat on their front porch, painting landscapes to her heart’s content. Painting was her favorite hobby for many years, and she used music to guide the strokes of her brush and the colors she selected.

Her mother hadn’t painted in more than a year. Financial strain drove her to work longer hours, and she no longer had the time. And when she did have a spare hour or two, she hadn’t the inspiration.

Unfortunately, Lorraine knew what it felt like to lose an artistic outlet. The music room should have been utterly silent during this hour, hence why she was drawn to the unexpected melodies. She crept forward and, reaching the door, peered inside.

She didn’t know who she expected to find, but she was still surprised to see Henry Phipps. He hunched over the piano, guiding his fingers across the keys, the depth and beauty of the notes discordant with his torn, faded t-shirt. His shaggy blond hair fell into his face as he played, and Lorraine wondered how in the world that didn’t interfere with his ability to read the music.

An inharmonious sound marred the moment as Henry’s fingers faltered. He paused to compose himself, and Lorraine took that as her chance to make her presence known. Lingering for much longer would only feel creepy.

“What are you up to?” she asked.

Henry turned from the piano to look at her. “Oh, I got permission to practice here. I mean, the room is free now, so…”

“Yeah. That makes sense.” A pang of sadness twisted her stomach. The room shouldn’t have been free. Wouldn’t have been free, except the school didn’t have a band director anymore. Not because the position had been eliminated, but because no one had applied for the job. She’d heard parents talk about the shortage of teachers before, but this was the first year she had been directly impacted by the problem. She thought of her clarinet and how it had been sitting in the corner of her room for far too long. The school band had been, in a word, disbanded. The silent joke failed to lighten her mood.

“I just asked Principal Robbins. She thought it was a great idea. Better than letting the room go unused.

Lorraine nodded. “It didn’t occur to me to ask.”

Henry’s smile brightened. “Maybe you could. There’s plenty of time in the day, and after school. If we got enough people interested, we might even be able to practice together.”

“Start our own band, you mean?” Lorraine laughed to herself, but not because the idea seemed ludicrous. In fact, it could be fun.

He shrugged, perhaps taking her laughter for mockery. “Just a thought.”

She offered a reassuring smile “A good thought. I’ll think about it.”

He smiled in return and turned back to his music. As the notes filled the room once more, Lorraine knew she should be thinking about going back to her classroom, but the melody kept her feet planted to the ground while her mind took flight, giddy with new possibilities.

Word Count: 662


Tagline: Even in dark times, music can provide you the light you need.


  1. Interesting take on the prompt! The students are taking the situation in stride and coming up with some good ideas. :) A teacher shortage is the last thing you need, after two years of COVID restrictions! We have a shortage of nurses here, which is just as bad.

  2. Hi, Excellent! The idea of finding new beginnings for something that has been disbanded. Your story has hope woven into it, and that is refreshing. Shalom aleichem

  3. You did an excellent job of using the story prompt with your worries about a school with no band. I loved how the kids came up with a solution to still have music at school.

  4. Love this! Music should fill all the schools and hallways - it's a solace and a joy for so many people.

  5. What a wonderful way to fill the schools with music again. No reason not to use a space allocated. Love it! Beautiful story.

  6. That was a sad story but hopeful. I enjoyed it and I wish those kids would start their own band or find another way to make music. Music is a powerful force and shouldn't be abandoned. I wish the same for you and your sons too.

  7. Hi L. G.
    Teachers need a pay raise big time. And, politicians should stop accusing teachers of all the truly dumb things some of them spit out. Perhaps you can give your kids private lessons. The story captures the current climate here in America. Well written.

  8. I enjoyed this contemporary take on the prompt. Focusing on the real life issues of the struggling school system in the current situation with Covid. A very interesting take on this prompt.

  9. Possibilities!
    Very sorry they are struggling to find teachers. So many states are having that problem. Mandates drove away some, fear others. Hope your boys are able to play music this year.

  10. So many of my teacher friends have left the career for good because they were shown just how little respect school boards and parents had for them. It was already a tough profession, but the last couple years definitely complicated things for a variety of reasons. We've seen a few classes disappear because of teacher shortages around here, to the extent that they started tying some of the local high schools together by having one teacher teach in-class at one school, while kids in other schools tune into that class via the media center and computers. I hope they can find teachers for those classes or a workable solution. There are so many students who will miss out on something they love. Your solution in the story is a good one, though! Kids find ways to persevere.

  11. Looks like the teacher shortage is worldwide. Australia has the same problem. Thousands of teachers short. I much prefer what I do - tutor one on one. But I wonder if I'll get called up to the classroom again. No thanks.

    Loved your story. I adore music and painting and you brought them together. Inspiring. But sad that the music room is empty. Was just thinking about Mr Holland's Opus today. Very significant now.

  12. Oh no, I can only imagine the repercussion of having shortage of teachers. What a dreadful society it'd be to live in, right?

  13. As Denise mentioned above, the teacher shortage is a worldwide phenomenon. South Africa has the same problem. I'm still in the classroom, so I know first-hand what a challenge this is for the educational system.

    I love how your real-life concerns inspired you to write this lovely piece. I hope that your boys get to play their instruments soon.

  14. Poignant and lovely. The children will find a solution, I have great hopes of the next generation, they have been challenged majorly and they will rise to it.

    I loved that you used some real life concerns to shape your story. The shortage of manpower is everywhere, another long term issue generated by the pandemic. My son's uni campus couldn't run their buses sometime ago because there were no drivers for the job. I hope the school will find a solution and your boys will have their music back soon.

  15. Cool story that speaks to current school issues. I like how the children recognized the importance of music and found a way to continue without disrupting their classes. Nice incorporation of the prompt. Well done.

  16. This is lovely. I really, really hope that Henry's idea takes wing - and that a solution can be found for your (and too many others) teaching woes.

  17. Hi Laura - well done, so beautifully told ... with hope ahead; so often passionate children resolve things ... lets hope here, as too with your sons and other musically inclined children. Thank you - Hilary

  18. I love this entry. I'm so sad that your school has to disband its band because no teachers are available. The pandemic certainly took its toll, especially in the arts (and restaurants). I can feel the longing of the students as they make music their own way, use the empty space and fill it with their own sound. I hope your district finds a band director, soon!

    This is my first time participating in the WEP challenge. Such a good prompt. I'm enjoying all the entries, inspired by music.

    Mary at Play off the Page

  19. An interesting and hopeful take on the prompt that illuminates a growing problem in a world that favors ignorance over knowledge. Well done.

  20. Well, we need to treat the teaching profession with more respect. At least in my part of the world where teachers are not given their due, often. A good response to the prompt.

  21. Great take. Points to the importance of creativity and having an outlet. I hope the school finds someone to step in soon.

  22. Good work incorporating a real situation into the work of fiction. I don't have any school-age kids in my life, so I wasn't aware of the teacher shortage. The cost of living is so high and teacher salaries are, well, not.
    The truth is, I wanted to be a professional musician, but as my father informed the psychologist when we went to family counseling, I was the "least musically talented" person in the family. He wanted me to stop pursuing music, and he got his wish. I never played an instrument again after that day, which was some 32 years ago.

  23. The tagline expresses the story exactly. I love how you wove a tale with a solution to your present problem.

  24. It's hard because we know the value of music and science, but society seemed to ignore the value of teachers. I have several teacher friends and the things they go through, things that have nothing to do with passing on knowledge and skills, it's crazy. The active shooter drills, the covid protocols, and everything else. Yikes.

    Good way to apply the prompt. Best of luck to your kids.

  25. Truly a light at the end of a dark tunnel. Maybe your kids & their friends could take inspiration from Lorraine & Henry? ;)