Al Cappella

When Albert Cappella was born, his parents were so proud. “Look at those hands,” his father said. “He’s going to be a great musician some day. I’m sure of it.”

Albert’s mother beamed. “Yes. We can get him started as soon as he can hold an instrument.”

The Cappellas had to wait a few years before Al, as he came to be called, could hold an instrument. Fortunately, the Cappellas owned a music store that featured instruments of all kinds and shapes and sizes.

When little Al was four, they gave him a harmonica. He used the wrong end. Then they tried the smallest violin in the store. Al seemed attentive while his father taught him the D scale, but when he tried to play, the little boy held the instrument like a cello and made scary noises.

Al’s parents waited a bit before showing Al how to play the tin whistle. He put the whistle in his ear and danced around, laughing the whole time.

In second grade Al’s entire class was required to bring in plastic recorders. Al’s father put a brand-new white plastic instrument into Al’s backpack just before the yellow school bus arrived. When Al came home from school, his mother gave him the usual quiz.

“How was school today, Al?”

“Good.”

“Did you play your new recorder?”

Al nodded.

“How did that go?”

“Good.”

A few weeks later it was time for parent-teacher conferences. Ms. Yenling smiled when she greeted the Cappellas.

“I have been looking forward to meeting you, Mr. and Mrs. Cappella. Al is quite a charming boy. He always seems happy.” Then she frowned. “But there is a bit of a problem.”

Mrs. Cappella looked frightened. “A problem? What is it?”

“Al just has not taken to the recorder. He puts the wrong end in his mouth. I certainly try to correct him, but he keeps doing it. The other children laugh at him. I don’t know if he’s doing it deliberately.”

Al’s father spoke up. “Ms. Yenling, we’ve been trying to introduce Al to various instruments since he was a toddler. I own a music store. As you can imagine, both his mother and I want our boy to play a musical instrument, more than one if possible. Yet every time we’ve tried to get him interested, he’s thwarted us. Sometimes I wonder if he’s deliberately rebelling, but sometimes I think that his mind and body are just not interested in music.”

“Oh, but he is interested in music. That was the second problem I was going to mention.”

“Another problem?” Mrs. Cappella looked even more worried than before.

“Yes. I’m afraid Al sings all the time. Now that’s fine when the subject is singing, as it is once a week when I teach the children songs. The problem is that Al sings during math and science and language arts. I keep having to reprimand him. In a nice way, of course.”

“Yes, I’m sure you’re always nice, Ms.Yenling, but it’s very disturbing to hear this news. What can we do?”

“I’m sure that a few words from his parents will be enough to stop Al from singing when he shouldn’t.”

His parents weren’t so sure. As soon as the Cappellas told little Al that he should not be singing during math or science or social studies or language arts, he looked at them and burst into song.

They heard the voice of an angel.

There was only one solution. They had to take Al out of school and teach him at home. They had to cultivate that voice and have him perform at whatever venues they could find. And then when his voice changed, they would hope for a new voice, stronger and more attractive than the boy soprano that now delighted them.

“I should have known,” said Mr. Cappella to his wife one day, “that when we named him Albert he would be inspired to become a singer.”

“How so?”

“You remember what a cappella means. It means singing without instrumental accompaniment. Biology may be destiny. And in our son’s case, nomenclature is destiny.”

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