2004 Essay Contest Winners

Mike Lawson • ChoralFeatures • February 9, 2011

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SUBJECT: My Favorite Composer Is…

Winners receive a $1,000 scholarship to help further their music education. The winning students’ schools will receive matching awards in the form of musical merchandise from Alfred Publishing Co., C.G. Conn, Yamaha Corporation of America and Avedis Zildjian Co.

Kurt Rever Grade 12, Age 17 Pinkerton Academy Derry, N.H. Instrument: Percussion Director: Leighanne Cullen Favorite Composer: John Williams


In a troubled world, there is one thing that has the remarkable capability of binding humanity together ? music. Music can break barriers and cross cultures like nothing else. Over the centuries, many extraordinary and brilliant people have composed pieces that have come to define moments in history and move generations. The word ?composer? is generally associated with great musicians, such as Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Handel, Holst, and many, many others; however, I believe another great composer is working in our own time.

John Williams is my favorite composer because he has the exceptional ability to transmit feeling and emotion through his work. Like any great composer, he can blend extreme joy, excitement and anticipation with anxiousness, grief and sadness. However, in addition, he also combines contemporary with classic techniques to produce a very unique sound. In many ways, his job is more difficult than usual because he often composes music for films and ceremonies. Therefore, he is challenged with the task of combining moving melodies with visual stimulation. Williams has successfully achieved this in films such as Amistad, Saving Private Ryan and Star Wars. His music is often the distinguishing factor in making a good film great.

The music of John Williams is inspiring and encourages imagination in everyone who listens. His music is all around us and has musically defined our generation. Whether listening to his music during a film, on the nightly news, or at Symphony Hall in Boston, it is something to be savored and enjoyed by all.

Erica Glenn Grade 12, Age 17 Pleasant Grove High School Pleasant Grove, Utah Instrument: Piano Director: Jim Wilcock Favorite Composer: Clara Schumann

Child prodigy. Piano virtuoso. Successful businesswoman. Acclaimed composer. In almost every aspect of her life, Clara Schumann challenged 19th-century gender barriers. However, Clara was also acutely aware of her feminine side. She was a devoted wife and mother of eight children. For Clara, music and femininity were inseparably intertwined.

Never very verbally articulate, Clara expressed herself best through music. Her compositions were known for their heartfelt, lyrical quality. Clara wrote her first piece at age nine, and composed over 50 works throughout her lifetime. She was also a superb pianist. It was Clara?s performance of the works of Chopin, Brahms, and her own husband, Robert, that was largely responsible for their success as composers.

As a musician and budding composer myself, Clara?s compositions ? especially her works for piano and soprano voice ? have touched me deeply. They seem to effortlessly combine a solid foundation and an almost ethereal beauty in a way that mirrors Clara?s own life. She was very practical by nature, but somehow when her fingers touched the piano keyboard, she was transported into a different realm, a world full of the beauty and perfection that her heart longed for.

As an aspiring female composer, I have been profoundly inspired by Clara Schumann?s dedication to music and her incredible strength of character. In spite of the overwhelming obstacles that constantly threatened her career and personal life, Clara consistently pushed onward. Her success was largely due to sheer determination ? a trait I hope to emulate in my own journey toward my dream.

Noah Metz Grade 12, Age 17 Henry M. Gunn High School Palo Alto, Calif. Instrument: Piano Director: Todd Summers Favorite Composer: Dave Brubeck

Picture a smoky jazz club, with small, sticky, wooden tables. A quintet swings on the stage ? piano, bass, drums, trumpet and guitar. The trumpeter hits one of those hard, high notes, and cascades back down the scale ? maybe a long, mournful sharp eleventh-note over a D-minor chord. The people in the front go nuts. The pianist can carry heavy chords, rich and viscous. But he will save that for the closing set. For now he just comps gingerly, content with simple, sparse accompaniment.

When I hear or play Dave Brubeck?s music, I am brought to this place ? where the musicians are hot, the jazz is cool and the grooves swing. With unprecedented style of unconventional rhythm or thick, rich chordal patterns, Brubeck ushered in a new age for piano, allowing it to bridge the gap between functioning as a rhythm and as a solo instrument. However, more important than the technical aspects of Brubeck?s accomplishments are how they actually sound.

Brubeck?s truly inventive style of rhythm transports the listener (and player) to new heights, such as in ?Three to Get Ready,? where timing varies every few measures from 3/4 to 4/4 and back again. In the aptly named ?Unsquare Dance,? Brubeck teases the listener in a spring ballet interplay of clapping, hard bass tones and quick, dissonant piano ? all in 7/8 time.

A legend of his time, Brubeck changed not merely the superficial sound of piano jazz, but its very heart ? its rhythm.

Alison De Roos Grade 12, Age 18 Marian High School Omaha, Neb. Instrument: Violin Director: Cathy Pruitt Favorite Composer: Antonio Vivaldi

What could be more beautiful than seeing the change of the four seasons before your eyes? Hearing it! Feeling it! New life bursts forward in springtime splendor amidst lightning and thunder. Golden rays of hot summer sun beat rhythmically with breezes and melodic birds. A hailstorm erupts. The world transforms into hues of autumn-colored leaves and blissful harvest dances. An icy blanket of sparkling snow provides warmth to nature.

Antonio Vivaldi is my favorite composer. His works express stillness and fluidity, the intrinsic pulse of every living thing. When I feel stressed or happy, tired or energetic, pensive or impulsive, his music mirrors my emotions and echoes back the calmness in my soul.

Vivaldi advanced several aspects of instrument use in presentation styles: new bowings for stringed instruments (especially violin technique), fathered the present-day form of solo concerto, created the three-movement concerto form, use of cadenza and programmatic music. Instruments rarely used in concertos and sonatas of his time were included in advanced pieces. Stringed instruments (violin, cello, mandolin) were blended harmoniously with majestic sounds from the bassoon, oboe and flute.

His baroque concerto style influenced other great composers. Bach arranged works from Vivaldi?s L?estro Armonico collection of violin concertos into pieces using the organ and harpsichord. Vivaldi also composed vocal, choral and operatic works.

When I play or listen to Vivaldi?s compositions, my consciousness vibrates a connectedness with the world. The intuitive cadence of Vivaldi?s works reflect life?s ebb and flow.

Pranoti Hiremath Grade 9, Age 13 Garfield High School Seattle, Wash. Instrument: Violin Director: Marcus Tsutakawa Favorite Composer: Nicolo Paganini

When you hear music, you get a glimpse of the composer?s soul. As I listen to Paganini, I am blinded by the vision created by his music. In his compositions, all emotions, all charisma, all the chards of the universe come together to form nothing other than life.

Nicolo Paganini is my favorite composer. He may not be as universally known as Bach or Beethoven, but Paganini is my inspiration. Being a violinist, I know how completely stunning is technical prowess is. Yet this is not the real reason I love his music. I love it because it brims with life. Every note and chord has so much vivacity in it. There is incredible variety ? from fast, technical feats to rhapsodic melodies to sounds of a bell to every emotion possible. The music has a certain quality and character that lifts it above technical exercises.

It absorbs you as you absorb it; it transports you to a mirror reflecting your soul; it makes you look inside yourself and dissolves the fa?ade of who you seem to be. Everyone wears a mask covering their inner self so they can be a part of society. Paganini?s music does not have this mask. It is full of life unmarred: so unique, so in itself, so unafraid to stand out, so unfettered. It is like the sun bursting out from under the horizon, transforming everything it touches, and forever burning.

Gabriella Sauza Grade 7, Age 12 Lincoln Middle School Meriden, Conn. Instrument: Piano Director: Michael Cassella Favorite Composer: Andrew Lloyd Webber

There are many great and renowned composers both past and present, but for me, my favorite composer is Andrew Lloyd Webber. Andrew was born in London, England, on March 22, 1948. He grew up in South Kensington, England, and attended the University of Oxford and the Royal College of Music. He is famous for composing theatrical music. Some of his famous musicals are ?Jesus Christ Superstar,? ?Cats,? ?Phantom of the Opera? and ?Evita.? He has won several awards for his pieces. Some of the awards include the Tony Award, Grammy Award, New York Drama Critics? Circle Award and the Drama Desk Award.

I like the way Andrew Lloyd Webber has taken historical events and composed them into musicals, such as ?Jesus Christ Superstar? and ?Evita.? His talent is overwhelmingly profound. The dramatics and severity of his music are clearly felt deep within and are very moving. I can just close my eyes, listen to his music, and feel consumed by the greatness of the sound. In ?Phantom of the Opera,? I feel the emotions of the lyrics along with the musical accompaniment. It is as if I was actually there as part of the musical, especially the song, ?Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.? I could feel the singer?s pain as she sings to her father at his gravesite.

If you haven?t had the opportunity to listen to any of Andrew?s pieces, I strongly recommend that you do. I?m sure you won?t be disappointed. His music is very enjoyable and contagious. I find myself listening to his works over and over again. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Madeline Marshall Grade 8, Age 13 Hayward High School Hayward, Wis. Instrument: Clarinet Music Director: Quint Schultz Favorite Composer: Eric Satie

My favorite composer is Eric Satie. His music is very sensitive and thoughtful, like he was contemplating an important issue while he was composing it. His music is also very calming, and I like to play pieces of his, like Gymnopedie, when I want to think.

Eric Satie uses some interesting chords in his pieces. The chords look very strange, but always end up sounding right. Satie?s music is also at a slower tempo than many pieces that are written, which is a nice change. The rhythm of his music also flows nicely, creating the sensation of being on a calm lake.

I also like Eric Satie?s music because it is from the 20th century; therefore it is newer and more up to date than music from the Baroque, Classical or Romantic periods. Newer music, like Satie?s, appeals to me more than composers? from other musical periods. Not that I don?t like or appreciate music written by such timeless composers as Mozart, Beethoven or Chopin, because I do, but Satie?s compositions have a different feel than those others.

His music challenges me to stretch my abilities as a musician, but not so much that the making of music is no longer fun. I can still sight-read the pieces without much difficulty, but have to back through them many times afterward to add more feeling and musicality to the written music.

I really like Eric Satie?s music for everything about it. His pieces never fail to make me smile.

Jeralyn Westercamp Grade 7, Age 12 Harding Middle School Cedar Rapids, Iowa Instrument: Viola Director: Ann Hauschildt Favorite Composer: Antonin Dvorak

Another festival fills the city?s streets with cheer and good spirits, but unlike other celebrations, this one is distinctly Czech. Due to a large settlement of immigrants a hundred years ago, my community has been richly colored by Czech culture. From goulash to hand-blown ornaments, every detail of life has a distinctly Czech influence. Even our music avoids the common pitfall of a ?great German composer,? but instead, the ears are pleased with the work of my favorite composer ? Antonin Dvorak, a native Czech and one-time Iowa resident.

Like the fabric of my town, Dvorak was fiercely Czech. Despite his pride, the great German composers influenced him. But he remained true to his roots by filling his work with folk music influences. As I have progressed as a violist, I have come to know the beauty of his works, such well known compositions as the ?Symphony No. 9, ?From the New World,? ? as well as less popularized pieces that contain the same exuberance.

As my family converged on our town?s annual Czech festival, I intently tuned my ears to the music of Antonin Dvorak. The notes of the string instruments lifted above the bustling crowds in one joyous moment. I caught the beauty of each note. For the beauty lies not just in the sound produced upon each playing of his work, but in the great influence Antonin Dvorak has had on the lives of youth who want to ?Czech? out music.


Jennifer Shrandt Grade 8, Age 14 Newtown Middle School Newtown, Penn. Instruments: Trumpet, Violin Director: Keith Rudat Favorite Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven

?What I have in my heart must come out; that is why I compose.? Beethoven had to overcome many obstacles to achieve greatness. One of these obstacles was his hearing impairment, which he noticed near the age of 30. ?How can I, a musician, say to people, ?I am deaf!? I shall, if I can, defy this fate, even though there will be times when I shall be the unhappiest of God?s creatures?I live only in music.?

Beethoven composed some of his best music after he went deaf, even though he could no longer perform. The struggle and suffering Beethoven went through did not keep him from composing. His determination and love of music kept him from giving up and he overcame his hearing impairment. Beethoven?s musical ability makes him a great musician. His strength and determination make him a great person.

Like Beethoven, I also have a hearing loss. I understand what Beethoven went through as an adult losing most of his hearing. It can get very frustrating when you have to keep asking, ?Can you please repeat yourself?? My parents and teachers find it amazing that I can still play musical instruments and recognize changes in pitch and tone.

My hearing loss brings out the best in me. It shows my strength and determination to play music. It makes me value everything more, compared to if I had all of my hearing. It makes playing music mean everything to me. I live in my music.

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