As Monica and Tess drive through the crop fields of central California, Monica comments on their beauty. But when Tess asks her to take a closer look, Monica sees the hardworking families, including many young children, toiling over the crops in the hot sun. One such family is the Morante clan. Patriarch Roberto works tirelessly alongside his wife Elisa, his teenage son Tino, and younger children Claudia and Miguel. They migrate with the season, always traveling to the part of the country that is being harvested. One of their few joys is the letter they receive each week from their grandmother. Roberto is illiterate so he has Tino read the letter, though Tino would rather be listening to classical music on the car radio. As the Morantes settle in the latest migrant camp, they meet Monica, the church volunteer, Andrew, the camp supervisor, and Rafael, a fellow migrant worker. At church on Sunday, Tino discovers the piano and begins to play. Tess offers to be his music teacher. She teaches Tino Bach's Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring" and he plays the song feverishly all night long, attracting a crowd. Roberto is furious to find that his son is late for work and, despite Tess telling him that Tino is a musical genius, he insists Tino quit thinking about playing music. Instead, with Monica's help Tino completes an application to a local music academy and waits patiently for a mailed reply. Roberto injures his back while working in the field which forces him to visit the town doctor. He is told to stay off his back, lest he do serious damage. Roberto knows, however, that he must be able to work to support the family, and Tino's contribution becomes all the more vital. Roberto is upset to receive a letter of Tino's acceptance to the music academy, and tears it up in haste. Later Tino finds out about the undelivered letter, and, after he and his father fight, he decides to go to the audition. At the same time Roberto's back finally gives out, so Tino agrees to work twice as hard to pick up his father's slack. Because of this he misses the audition and begins to accept his future as a migrant worker. Tess reveals herself to Roberto as an angel and asks him to put his trust in God and stop trying to control his son. Roberto asks Tess to help him Tino. Together they go to the music academy, and persuade the professor in charge to give Tino another chance to audition. Meanwhile in the fields Monica reveals herself to Tino and tells him that God wouldn't gift him musically and then not to give him the opportunity to praise him with that gift. Since they are working on a Sunday, Rafael arranges for a priest to give the workers communion. They encourage Tino to play for them but his hands are blistered and he cannot. Roberto arrives to support Tino, telling him that God will give him the strength. Tino begins to play Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and as the song reverberates through the fields, the professor offers Tino a music scholarship. At the same time, Andrew offers Roberto his job a supervisor, a job that will be less physically demanding and allow the family to stay in one location near Tino's school.moreless
Monica: (to Tino) God doesn't make us hungry for bread and then give us a stone. And he didn't give you the desire to play music only to let it be taken away from you. Don't you see? God's gift to you will be your gift back to him.
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