The 2014 Essay Contest Winners

Mike Lawson • News • January 30, 2014

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SBO is proud to present the winners of the 2014 SBO Essay Scholarship Contest

Two students each from Illinois and Virginia were among the 10 scholarship winners of this year’s SBO essay contest, with the other six from Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, and Wisconsin. Five winners from grades 4 to 8 and five students from grades 9 to 12 each received music scholarships of $1,000, with their respective school music programs awarded a matching prize of musical products from cosponsors NAMM, Alfred Music Publishing, the Woodwind & Brasswind, and Yamaha Corporation of America.

This year’s theme, “Now more than ever, music education is important because…,”generated contributions from every state in the U.S., as well as several foreign countries. The music students were presented their scholarship award by local music dealers representing NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) a major co-sponsor of the program. 2014 marks the 14th year for the essay contest, which has awarded $280,000 in scholarship funds and matching music products to more than 140 students and school music programs since its inception.

The winning school music programs and their music directors included: Danielle Johnson of Mountain Range High School, Westminster, Colorado; Robert Loughran of Princeton High School, Princeton, New Jersey; Jonathan Handman of Arlington High School, Lagrangeville, New York; Matthew Kurinsky of Hinsdale Central High School, Hinsdale, Illinois; and  Donald Krudop from Salem High School, Virginia Beach, Virginia. Also, Toni Beaver of West Bridgewater Middle/Senior High School, West Bridgewater, Massachusetts; Sonia Alcorta of Anson Jones Middle School, San Antonio, Texas; Benjamin Leon, Wisconsin Hills Middle School, Brookfield, Wisconsin; Jeanne Johannesen of Longfellow Elementary School, Wheaton, Illinois; and Debbie Price, Marshall Middle School, The Plains, Virginia.



2014 SBO Essay Scholarship Winners


Grades 4-8


West Bridgewater Middle/Senior High School principal Mark Bodwell, Rick Santos of Rick’s Music World, essay contest winner Maggie Allen, music teacher Toni Beaver, and Christine Page, assistant principal.

Margaret Allen

Grade: 8

Age: 13

Music Teacher: Toni Beaver

West Bridgewater Middle/Senior High School

West Bridgewater, MA


Music is important now more than ever

It can help students in school

And teach patience and culture

Therefore music is an excellent tool.


Patience is a practical skill

And learning it takes time

But mastering an instrument does too

And the result can be sublime.


An instrument takes effort and fortitude

A useful thing to know

But the result is not immediate

Patience can help play the piano


In the modern day and age

Students struggle to express their thoughts

Music is an outlet for emotion

It can help connect the dots.


When playing music

Pieces differ by who they are played

And it is a way of expression

Where emotions are discretely displayed.


Learning new languages is an imperative task

But the process is long and hard

Music is new and unfamiliar

It can help language grades on report cards.


The skill to learning music

Is much like learning French

It is a language of its own

That can be learned from the music bench


Each culture has a distinct style

Of music and songs

When listening to music

You can learn a story, short or long.


It familiarizes faraway lands

Takes you back in time

Teaches you the salsa

Whether it’s lyric free or a limerick rhyme


Music is important now more than ever

It can help students succeed

It teaches lifelong skills

Therefore music is a scholastic need.



Orchestra teacher Sonja Alcorta, contest winner Sienna Cavazos, and Music & Arts school services DM Lance McAllister.

Sienna Cavazos

Grade: 7

Age: 13

Music Teacher: Sonia Alcorta

Anson Jones Middle School

San Antonio, Texas

Music can be a unique way for children to express themselves. They need musical education because it can make a difference in their lifestyle. Now more than ever, music education is important because it will educate, motivate, and help build creative mindsets. Studies have shown that music can help children with learning, memorizing, and hearing, which they will need in the classroom. Children who take music education are creative, well rounded, and have a better chance at success. This is due to their creativity in writing, art, and reading. Currently, teachers in the classroom [at my school] allow children to listen to music while working or participating in silent reading. Why, you ask? Well, because when children listen to music, they are able to work and concentrate better. Throughout the year I have learned hand techniques with my violin, increased my memorization in measurements, and my scores have increased in math. I believe that without music, that would not have been possible.

Ever since I was young, I have always loved music, which has helped me with these school-related problems. Each child can have opportunities that can be reached through music. Now more than ever, music education is leading them to a better future. 


Contest winner Aparna Jayashankar receives her scholarship check from Chris White of White House of Music at a school assembly in Wisconsin Hills Middle School in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Aparna Jayashankar

Grade: 8

Age: 12

Music Teacher: Benjamin Leon

Wisconsin Hills Middle School

Brookfield, WI

Now more than ever music education is important, because music is many things for me: a friend, a comfort, a hobby, a profession, a gift, and most importantly, a guide to living life. Music is my source of contentment and tranquility. Whenever I feel irascible, like a can of soda about to explode, I let my fingers flow across marble white keys and release all my emotions into the ebony structure filled with music waiting to be played, my piano. Every time I want to shout to the world that everything is wonderful, I whip my fingers over silver strings, and my violin in turn whispers to the world my message through music.

I believe that every student should have a musical education so their instrument could be turned into a hobby, filling up hours of boredom and replacing modern technology’s gadgets with something much more beneficial. They might even become a music teacher or performer and spread their passion for music to many others, while doing what they love for an occupation.

Music is a gift which everyone who loves it has the power to spread. It constantly guides my life, helping me express my emotions, and giving me valuable life lessons. It is important that a love for music is instilled in everyone’s heart. I hope that someday, every person will be able to comfort someone in need by saying, “I have the gift of music and I’d like to share it with you.”


George Quinlan, Jr. of Quinlan and Fabish presents a check to scholarship winner Shaylee Kimmel, who is accompanied by Longfellow School principal Dianne Thornburg and orchestra director Jeanne Johannesen.

Shaylee Kimmel

Grade: 5

Age: 10

Music Teacher: Jeanne Johannesen

Longfellow Elementary School

Wheaton, IL

Now more than ever, music education is important because it builds confidence, keeps traditions going, and lets students discover the joy of music!

Music education helps to build confidence, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. Music helps people be more confident because when you have a concert for band or orchestra, you have to have confidence to play your instrument in front of the audience. When you play violin, you use teamwork because you have to listen in order to stay together when you’re playing a song together. Playing an instrument helps you to problem-solve because you learn how to tune your instrument, hear when you need to rosin your bow, and fix notes that sound out of tune.

Music education also keeps folks songs alive and helps people to remember their family history. By singing and playing together, people can pass on their history to many people, such as their grandchildren. Music education helps keep folks songs alive because the song might still be in a book you kept from when you were little. Some examples include “Mary Mack,” “Yankee Doodle,” and “Old McDonald.”

Music education helps students discover the joy of music. In my music class, I love to play instruments, make harmony with others, and move to the beat of the music. Everybody should enjoy music as much as I do. I could never live without it.

Music is awesome and I think everyone around the world should enjoy it. 


Menzie Pittman of Contemporary Music Center with scholarship winner Ember Skirsky at Marshall Middle School, The Plains, Virginia.

Ember Skirsky

Grade: 6

Age: 11

Music Teacher: Debbie Price

Marshall Middle School

The Plains, VA

Now more than ever, music education is important because of the skills it helps students develop. Concentration, memorization, focus, hands-on learning, and problem solving are important lifelong skills.

Playing music requires a lot of concentration. Now that everything is electronic, most people save information they need in their smartphones. It’s not the same in music. Musicians have to concentrate in order to learn. Concentration is a great everyday skill to learn.

The ability to focus and memorize are also skills for the future. No matter what career you have, focus is needed! In music, it’s no different. Memorization is also important! The measure they are in and that notes to play would be lost in their thought. Music education reinforces memorization and focus, and helps turn them into good habits. Those habits soon become part of your everyday life.

Most kids now-a-days have some sort of device. They can rely on it for answers instead of doing some simple thinking. In the art of music, using Google to find the answer is not an option. Musicians have to think for themselves and physically learn. Doing this stretches the brain and keeps it working constantly. When on a device, your brain does nothing. That’s why music is a great future skill.

Now more than ever, music education is important. As you can see, electronics hinder the skills of concentration, memorization and focus, and hands-on learning. Music keeps the brain working!


Grades 9-12


Music teacher Danielle Johnson, essay contest winner Lucas Droste, and Music &Arts educational rep James Barela.

Lucas Droste

Grade: 12

Age: 17

Music Teacher: Danielle Johnson

Mountain Range High School

Westminster, CO

A music education not only helps teach students how to play a musical instrument, but it also prepares them for future occupations by teaching cooperation and critical thinking, two skills that employers are seeking in their new hires in today’s increasingly competitive workforce.

By participating in an ensemble, students learn how to cooperate within two different size groups. Within their section, musicians are required to work together with the others to play the correct notes and rhythms together. Within the larger group, while still working to maintain coherence between their own sections, they must also listen across the group to produce music.

Finally, a music education teaches critical thinking by forcing students to slow down and think about what they are doing during practice. In order to be successful in music, students must dedicate themselves to practice. And in this time they are forced to turn an analytical lens on themselves and determine what mistakes they are making. Without critically thinking about each note individually as well as the distance between notes and the rhythmic pattern of the song, the students will consistently repeat the same mistake until, ultimately, that mistake is ingrained into their muscle memory to the point where it will be nearly impossible to correct the problem.

With the workforce becoming increasingly competitive, the skills learned through a music education provides students with a leg up over their competition by training them to think critically and cooperate within a larger group.


Music & Arts School Services DM Dave Kaplan, contest winner Amy Guan, and Princteton High School orchestra director Robert Loughran.

Amy Guan

Grade: 10

Age: 15

Music Teacher: Robert Loughran

Princeton High School

Princeton, NJ

Now more than ever, music education is important because it transcends boundaries and overlooks differences to bring people together. Each member of an ensemble has a specific role, yet everyone works harmoniously to evoke the intended messages and emotions of a piece of music. Differences are boxed up and put aside; the only thing that matters is the steady beat of the drum and the flow of the melody. Music is a universal language, bridging the cultural divide to touch every listener, regardless of his or her background.

Furthermore, music education is a hands-on learning experience, instructing in ways textbooks cannot. Music programs teach students the diligence and dedication required to master an instrument, the confidence needed to perform in front of an audience, and the ability to adapt to sudden changes when the situation requires. These lessons can be extended from the stage to the classroom and, eventually, to the future workplace. Tests are replaced by concert quality, and homework by how hard one works, allowing music to remain as a facet for self-expression and discovery in the midst of everyday chaos.

Through a few notes on a sheet of staff paper, music has the ability to unite cultures and teach crucial life skills. The importance of music in society continues to grow and, with its ability to reach out to students in ways number and lectures do not, music education is increasingly becoming an essential part of one’s daily life. 


Arlington High School orchestra director John Handman, contest winner Bethany Hagin, and Lou Varuzzo of Paul Effman Music.

Bethany Hagin

Grade: 12

Age: 17

Music Teacher: Jonathan Handman

Arlington High School

Lagrangeville, NY

Music is more than a simple art form. It creates a background of hard work and discipline, enhances problem-solving skills and memory, helps increase brain activity and I.Q., forms a sense of commitment and community, and increases a student’s quality of life in many other ways. Getting a music education does not only teach musical techniques. In addition to its musical benefits, an education in music develops mathematic, language, and communication skills, as well. Therefore, music education is an essential element in a student’s daily curriculum now more than ever.

With increased pressure upon schools and students alike to achieve higher test scores comes an increased need fro balance and an outlet where students can focus on something bigger than simply scoring well on a test. Many studies have even shown that students at risk of failing and skilling school are more inclined to attend school and even advance to college if they are involved in a music program. Students need some time during the school day to develop their creative and problem-solving skills, and music education is the perfect way to do this.

People are not solely defined by test scores. Living does not just require skills taught by a textbook. A student needs a well-rounded education, and music is an essential element in a complete curriculum.


Jon Kostal of Uncle Jon’s Music, contest winner Kelly Hung, and music teacher Matthew Kurinsky.

Kelly Hung

Grade: 12

Age: 17

Music Teacher: Matthew Kurinsky

Hinsdale Central High School

Hinsdale, IL

When my love affair with flute began, I think it almost happened by default – no other instrument was as shiny, and Mom approved of Mr. Flute’s charm.

Our relationship was difficult, I think, partly because I didn’t want to spend all my time with him. But, we kept at it. And, in my junior year in high school, when people asked me what I wanted to be my major in college, I’d reply, “Flute performance.”

The questioner would cock his head, look puzzled for a moment, and ask, “Why not engineering? Or bio? You have potential. Don’t waste it.”

Yes, music is increasingly viewed as the lesser path. This society is more and more focused on monetary goals, prompting its brightest youth to study anything that brings in dollars – biomedical engineering, pre-med. High schools, too, reflect this ideal. School boards are cutting funds for music classes and related extracurriculars; students are, slowly but surely, losing the resources they need to thrive.

With a society as socioeconomically troubled as the one we have inherited, music is one of the keys for a healing process to begin. And as music is being devalued, as schools and municipalities cut funding for music programs and symphony orchestras, it’s important for music advocates to fight to keep America’s musical tradition alive.

Mr. Flute and I went out today and performed the Nielsen concerto. It wasn’t perfect, but that’s okay. We just hope that, 20 years from now, there’ll still be music enthusiasts who understand our relationship.


Essay contest winner Mackinjosh Zumarraga and School Services DM Chris Davis.

Mackinjosh Zumarraga

Grade: 12

Age: 18

Music Teacher: Dr. Donald Krudop

Salem High School

Virginia Beach, VA

Now more than ever, music education is important because music relates to all fields of study, helps improve and define an individual, and integrates different types of people. Throughout the 21st century, people realized that entrepreneurship, cooperation, and communication are key factors to the successes of a global society. As vague is it may seem, musically inclined group of people can develop a more efficient, limitless, and respectful society. Countless evidence has proven the positive effects of music training relating to academic achievements in math, science, and reading. Other studies also showed prolific results within the realm of memorization, coordination, listening, leadership, multi-tasking, and creative thinking. Countless jobs today require skills that fall within those categories and music education is a proven tool of harnessing those skills. Another reason why music education is significant is its development of the character of an individual. Studies have shown that people with music backgrounds tend to be more self-confident, self-disciplined, and frequently involved in school and community activities. Ultimately, music allows people to find their passions and identities, which encourages their self-worth. Furthermore, music is a universal tool of communication. It allowed people from different cultures, religions, and lifestyles to unite and pursue similar goals, think of pressing issues, and answer questions relating to their own existence and purposes in life. Music definitely encourages unity among people. In today’s expanding population and information, the enforcement of music education proves a critical role in establishing a more harmonious, progressive, and valuable, global society.



Thank you to the thousands of student musicians who have entered, to the educators who have helped spread the word, and to our sponsors for their generous contributions to this annual event. 


Sponsored by:

A public service of the Music Education Coalition. Music and Arts are vital
to every child’s education. This site offers effective tips for preserving music
education within the schools and the latest evidence of music’s importance.

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