2011 Essay Contest Winners

Mike Lawson • Features • April 21, 2011

Share This:

Congratulations to the 2011 SBO Magazine Essay Contest winners!

Name: Alex Wilson
Age: 13
Grade: 7
Minnehaha Academy 
Minneapolis, MN

“One in a Million”

Last year I had a band teacher named Mr. Paul Isaacs. He was a very inspirational band teacher and never got mad at our class. We all loved him and were very happy with his teaching.

Mr. Isaacs also taught jazz band. I was just a sixth-grader. I was the youngest player, and he taught me that I could succeed even in a daunting and scary environment if I just practiced and played my heart out. Now, only a year later, I’m playing solos in front of the entire school.

Sadly, Mr. Isaacs passed away last year from cancer. We all miss him so much. He was the kindest and gentlest man I have ever known. He never missed the chance to bless our days as we walked from the classroom. He had a long list of cheesy jokes and cute stories that everyone loved. He taught us to love life no matter what it throws at us, and he always wanted to be teaching us, even at the peak of his illness. His favorite song was “No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that rock I’m clinging, while Christ is Lord of heav’n and earth how can I keep from singing?” No storm ever shook that calm, and he never stopped singing. Because of him, neither will I.

Name: Valerie Stickles
Age: 17
Grade: 12
Coventry High School
Coventry, CT


My high school band teacher, Mr. Ned Smith, has truly been a significant influence in y life; he has inspired me to pursue music education in college. I met Mr. Smith my freshman year. He was a first year teacher with a very natural teaching style. It was clear from the beginning that music teaching was his lifestyle, and he was completely invested in our band program. He constantly demonstrated a pure sense of respect and sensitivity towards music. By the end of that first year, he had already instilled a deep appreciation for the power and beauty of music in all his students. Never before had I recognized the comfort, healing, and hope that could be offered through music, and never before had I loved music so much. My love for music has strengthened each year of high school because of Mr. Smith. By my junior year, I began to realize just how much pursuing music education as a career would suit me. I began an independent study with Mr. Smith during the school day called “Introduction to Music Education” where I learned about philosophies of music education and helped in a sixth grade band classroom. His passion and enthusiasm for his occupation, along with my own passion for the music and fantastic band experience, affirmed by the close of the class that I wanted to be a music teacher. Mr. Smith has been my most significant inspiration. His influence will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Name: Ryan Fox
Age: 17
Grade: 12
Sultan High School
Monroe, WA


My music teachers have taught me that my disability doesn’t matter-only my ability does. I am autistic, and from my early elementary school years it has been music teachers who have always reached out to me. They aren’t afraid of my odd speech or quirky eye contact. Instead, they value my perfect pitch, good rhythm, solid percussion technique, and ability to help an ensemble sound great. They have encouraged me to enter honor bands and solo competitions each year, and this year I even won 2nd place on timpani statewide. My music teachers allow me to try to fit in. They include me in activities and combos, encourage me to challenge myself, and expect me to help others. They have taught me responsibility by allowing me to babysit marimbas, timpani, and cymbals during summer vacations so I could practice for All-State auditions in the fall. I always return everything before school starts, and I’ve learned to make small repairs. My high school teacher even loaned me her personal timpani because my school doesn’t have any. Music is how I connect with the world; it’s how I express myself. I now want to major in music performance in college because of the opportunities given to me, and I want to reach out and make the world better through my music because music makes people happy. I know my disability might not allow me to teach, but I can definitely perform. My dream is to become a professional timpanist.

Name: Emily Walker
Age: 14
Grade: 8
Hudson Memorial School
Hudson, NH


My music teacher has influenced me and my goals by inspiring me with the importance, pride, joy, and rewards of playing music. In sixth grade I chose to play the clarinet in the school band and was introduced to a whole different atmosphere. Everyone that contributed different sounds to a song was a part of a jigsaw puzzle that resembled our band. Mr. Seckla was the director of it all, and he was the one that put all of the different pieces together and enabled us to grow as a band. Mr. Seckla inspired me to keep working at the clarinet and to also pick up the flute. I was determined to learn everything about the flute and keep practicing, and within a short time I developed the skills to play fluently. He helped me reach the goal of learning how to play the flute by stressing  the importance of practicing to reach your goals. I often stay after school for a few hours a week to keep practicing for fun. Mr. Seckla reminds me every day of the joy of playing music by showing me and my band classmates what we can create by working together. After every concert, I feel pride swelling inside me and I feel rewarded when we all take a bow and the audience applauds our performance. As I look around at my band classmates, it reminds me of one of the most significant qualities of playing music: teamwork.

Name: Haunnah Hewett
Age: 12
Grade: 7
Clearwater Fundamental Middle School
Clearwater, FL


By simply believing in me, my music teacher, Mrs. Zebley, has influenced me and my personal goals in school. When I entered middle school, I was struggling in all aspects of learning. I really wanted to play the oboe, although I was told it was one of the most difficult instruments to play. It gave me great courage the day my band teacher handed me the oboe and said that it was mine to play for the next three years. I, like many other students, was just “getting by” while putting in the bare minimum of practice. I realized, I was not really getting anywhere. Then the day came, my music teacher told our class “You are only as good as you want to be, if you practice honestly you will only get better, and maybe even become perfect at some things”. I ran with this encouragement and I began to practice the oboe each and every day. In addition, I applied her theory to other subjects in which I was having difficulties with, and all my grades began to increase. As my ability to play the oboe amplified so did my grades in other classes. As I completed sixth grade, I found myself with straight “A”s in all areas. This was a first for me and I hope with the belief and praise of my band teacher that I will continue to strive forward in music while continuing to excel in leadership, problem solving, self-esteem and pride accomplishments.

Name: Adam M. McClendon
Age: 18
Grade: 12
Morgan Park High School
Chicago, IL


WOW. Where shall I start? I watch my band director, Ms. Shemeka Nash work with students from various socio-economic backgrounds on a daily basis. In addition she juggles a lot of responsibility between the parents, the various auxiliaries and the school’s management team. Watching her do all this reminds me that I can achieve my goals and that I can make a difference in the world and more closely in someone’s life. She always encourages me to study in all of my classes. She encourages me to practice so that I am a well-rounded student. Ms. Nash talks to me one-on-one and notices if something is wrong or awry. She makes sure to pull me to the side and genuinely listen and then more importantly HELP. She follows up to make sure that all the students get to and from school safely, that we eat and that we feel/know that someone really cares. I, like many other students, know that I can come to Ms. Nash for refuge. Words can’t really describe this feeling. Ms. Nash consistently reinforces the fact in me and the students that WE CAN achieve our goals, we can be productive citizens, we can live good lives and be proud of our accomplishments. I have an interest in culinary arts. Although Ms. Nash is the band director, do you know that she encourages me to cook? During the Summer of 2009 and 2010 I could not come to practice because I got a culinary internship—do you think Ms. Nash got mad? Nope, she just made sure that I had my music and told me to practice. She told me the hours she would be in the band room. She even arranged for an instructor to come and meet me on my day off at school to work with me. What else can I say about Ms. Nash. She’s wonderful. Without a doubt she has been a TOTALLY positive influence on me and I’ll always remember her kindness, talent, perseverance and just overall coolness towards the students (but especially towards me!).

Name: Caleb Carr
Age: 17
Grade: 12
Bozeman High School
Bozeman, MT


My music teacher, Mr. Berdahl, has influenced me and my goals in school by providing useful insight to subjects both inside and outside of the band room. These last four years, he has stated, “Perfection is expected, but excellence is accepted.” This taught me to never settle for mediocrity, to always strive for the best. With his words of advice in mind, I have since become first chair euphonium in the school’s symphonic band, and lead trombone in the school’s top jazz band. Also, I have found myself applying his advice to my academics. Examples of my success as a student are maintaining a 3.5 grade point average, earning a 5 on the AP Music Theory test, and placing in the top ten students in Montana on a French mastery exam. A second and important way my music teacher has influenced me is by playing a significant role in my career choice. As a freshman in high school, I had no interest in music as a career, but by seeing the enjoyment Mr. Berdahl has in being a director, I have decided on being a music educator. I hope to share my passion for music and excellence with students of my own which my director has shared with me. My music teacher has impacted my life. He has pushed me to become the best student, the best musician, and the best person I can be.

Name: Widchard Faustin
Age: 11
Grade: 7
Calvary Christian Academy
Philadelphia, PA


My band teacher, Mr. Darrell Benjamin has influenced me and my goals in school by always giving me upbeat support. For the past three years, he has played an instrumental role in helping me to become a skillful musician and has encouraged me to maintain a high-level of discipline. I joined the band as a percussionist in the 5th grade. from the start, Mr. B took me under his wing and has nurtured my musical aspirations. He always takes time to answer my questions and helps me with my music no matter how busy he is. His encouragements have motivated me to practice more and make progress everyday in music, as well as in all my academic subjects. My hard work paid off when I was able to move up to advanced band in my second year. I was proud of myself when I was awarded with an Outstanding Musician Award at the end of the school year. I was able to accomplish these milestones because my band teacher supported me every step of the way. Mr. B has reinforced what my parents have always told me to do, which is to put education first, do my very best to hit high notes in my academic studies. I will continue to work hard to achieve all my educational goals. With the help of teachers like Mr. B, I am marching on to cross finish line.

Name: Sarah McGill
Age: 17
Grade: 12
Hixson High School
Hixson, TN


I remember my hands trembling as I looked at my schedule freshman year. I had not touched my clarinet in three years, I had been placed in symphonic band, of all classes. I was embarrassed to have forgotten even the basics of playing, but upon telling Mr. McHenry, my new band director, he told me I would become a good player again. He kept his promise. Thanks to time spent in and after class, Mr. McHenry helped me to surpass my goal of becoming a decent player. He never made me feel inferior for not remembering how to play, but instead gave me just the push I needed to achieve my goal. He even encouraged me to learn tenor saxophone! He was very kind to me and worked through my affliction to help me be the best marcher I could be. Now, my senior year, I have progressed to be section leader and band captain. I look upon his example of leadership to know how to lead. He has helped me to become the player that I am today and placed one ultimate goal in my sight: fulfilling the potential that he so often reminds me that I posses.

Name: Briannah Yee
Age: 12
Grade: 7
Tyee Middle School
Bellevue, WA


My teacher, Mr. Scott Backus has a tremendous influence on me and my goals in school. He is extremely dedicated to his job and puts in a lot of time and effort to have everything flow in the classroom and the band concerts. He’s easy to talk to and is understanding. Most of all, he makes music fun to learn. Mr. Backus’s love for music has influenced me to become a better student and person. One of my goals in school is to be a life-long musician, not only on the clarinet, but other instruments as well. Being a member of the band I feel ecstatic. Mr. Backus has taught me to be prepared with my instrument and music and most importantly with a smile on my face and a positive attitude. I realize music helps us relax and forget about our problems. It brings the World closer together and everyone stops and listens. Therefore, I started taking piano this year and also have an interest in flute. With Mr. Backus’s encouragement, I know I can accomplish anything with hard work, dedication, and practice.

{loadposition article-bottom}

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!