Guinny and I squealed as we finally got off the bus. I stretched my limbs and let out my exhaustion and breathed in excitement as we scooped our bags out from under the bus. It was chilly and we had to carry awkward instruments, but it didn’t matter. We were finally at Berklee!
We ran through the hotel like a musical cult, jumping up and down with excitement. We got to a rehearsal room and put our stuff down, surveying the jazz ensemble and John Jay kids. While practicing our performance and watching the other two groups practice, I never said it out loud, but were definitely better than the John Jay kids. We sang in the elevators and danced through the halls until we made it to our room. We walked in and then stopped. Guinny and I looked at each other strangely, and then at our roommates, Dominique and Marilyn.
“What’s that smell?” I asked, because an odorous fog of what smelled like a mix between skunk and burning paper was ruining the air in our room. Guinny’s eyes widened in realization as she exclaimed, “Ew, gross! I think it smells like weed!” We dumped our bags on the floor and skipped down the hall to go talk to the faculty advisors. Mr. C, the Jazz Ensemble instructor, came in with Ms. Moore, a guidance counselor. They apologized, asking if any of us had some kind of perfume to get rid of the stink, just as Dominique whipped out a can of aerosol Axe body spray and filled the room with the overpowering smell of boys who don’t know when to stop putting on cologne.
“Well, it’s not the greatest smell, but it’s certainly better than weed stank!” I said, flopping down on the fluffy duvet. The girls shrugged with contempt and proceeded to flop down on their respective beds. I was sinking into the puffy comforter, when Sam, one of my best friends, barged into our room and flopped down on the bed next to us.
“God, that bus ride took so long,” he said, and, staring at the ceiling, I thought back to that morning.
I rolled over and woke up as I felt a tap on my back. “Grayson, There’s been a two hour delay for school, and I changed your alarm and set it for 9:00,” I heard my dad whisper into my ear.
“But it’s Berklee day. We’ve gotta go to Berklee!” I mumbled as my dad kissed my forehead.
“You’re just going to go a little later. Go back to sleep. I love you and I can’t wait to see you perform.” My dad tiptoed out of my room, and I rolled back over with exhaustion and a bit of disappointment.
I woke up two hours later as my mom burst into my room and turned my light on. As I usually do, I panicked because most of the time when my mom bursts into my room I’ve forgotten to set my alarm and overslept.
My mom said, “There’s a snow day today, so you guys are going to leave at 2:00 now.”
“Aww, but I was so excited to show up at school with our bags and have everyone marvel at us with jealousy,” I joked. My mom laughed and told me to get dressed. I hopped out of bed, excited for the trip ahead, and threw on my “Yay! It’s Berklee Day” outfit. After sitting impatiently, staring blankly at whatever was on the TV for another hour, it was finally time to go to the school. I was practically bouncing in my seat as we made our way to the school. When I got to the school, I unloaded my suitcase and went up to my best friends, Sam, Thomas, and Caleb. Sam and Thomas were in Chamber Choir with me, and Caleb was the assistant of our director, Mrs. Morse. We barreled onto the bus with excitement and then I realized as I sat down that Guinny wasn’t there yet. I texted her asking where she was, and I finally saw her bolting through the school parking lot. She threw her bags under the bus, and ran into her seat just as Caleb was starting to take attendance. As the bus drove out of the parking lot, we sang and cheered.
Most people ended up eating all of their food immediately, and Caleb’s tub of guacamole disappeared within seconds. After that the seniors were talking and laughing in the very back, while the rest of us ended up asleep or listening to music with our earbuds in. Thomas and I watched the beginning of the illegally-recorded video of Heathers the Musical on YouTube, until we gave up trying to share earbuds across the aisle, and so I finished watching it by myself. After 2.5 hours, I fell asleep like Odysseus did when he almost made it to Ithaca, and woke up 2.5 hours later when we pulled into the hotel entrance.
We ran up the escalators singing like crazy people, sang our clearly superior music to the John Jay kids and the Jazz ensemble, and the made our way to our rooms to find that our room smelled like weed.
“God, I am SO excited for tomorrow. We are gonna win this thing!” Sam said. I cheered and then got up on the bed and started jumping.
“This bed is like swallowing my feet whole it’s so squishy!” I said, and Dominique, Guinny, Sam, and Marilyn, seeing my clutzy fun, all jumped up onto the beds. For the next 10 minutes, we were just jumping back and forth between our beds, singing way too loudly and laughing until Ms. Moore stuck her head in the room and told Sam to go back to his room and told us all to go to bed. So, against our better judgements, we got into bed and quietly talked until 1:00 a.m. before falling asleep.
The next morning, we got up and grabbed some Starbucks in our matching Berklee outfits, and then we went to go watch the other competitors. As we were sitting there watching the first group of the day, we all immediately started feeling ecstatic.
Sam leaned over to whisper into my ear, and I knew exactly what he was going to say. “They totally suck!”
“I know.” I said. “If all of the groups are like this, then we are totally going to win!”
We clapped politely anyway during the first group, and then during the second group we also clapped politely, still feeling happy because they only had one actually good person in their group. Unfortunately, the next three groups were pretty good, including last year’s Vocal Jazz I winners. I was very nervous at that point, knowing that after lunch, we would be performing for the judges. I could barely eat anything during lunch, and then we went into the stairwell to do one final rehearsal. Mrs. Morse had been talking about “the Stairwell Moment,” when every year that we’ve won, there’s been this magical, gives-you-chills moment while we were having a final run through of our songs in this stairwell with these amazing acoustics. I almost teared up with excitement when she mimed that she was getting chills will conducting us.
When we finally were up on stage, jittery with excitement and singing our hearts out, I could just feel it. I knew that this was going to be our victory. I didn’t want to jinx it, but I was so proud because I knew we had left our best on that stage.
Hours later, tired and tense from an exhausting day of worrying, we were sitting in the giant Berklee stadium squeezing hands as strong enough to throw Polyphemus’s boulder. Blood coursed through my veins like the River Styx as we sat there for 45 minutes listening to them announce the other awards.
Finally, finally, she announced second place for V2, our category, and it was last year’s V1 winners. At this point we knew because there was no way they had gotten 2nd and we hadn’t placed at all. Amy Baumgarten, a funny and loud senior, started flipping out, and we all shushed as the silence hung in the air.
“And the winners… V2....Edgemont High Sch--” The announcer was cut off by our deafening roar. It was like one of those slow motion moments in movies where someone wins something and everyone just hugs and cries and laughs and screams, just letting out all of our tension. It was one of the best days of my life.