2003 Essay Contest Winners

Mike Lawson • Features • February 9, 2011

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SUBJECT: My Favorite Musical Instrument 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.

GRADES 4 – 8


Clarissa Brown Grade 7 Hughesville High School Hughesville, Penn. Favorite Instrument: Trombone Music Director: Samuel Arnone

The low, bone-chilling sound my favorite instrument makes puts it above all others. My favorite instrument is the trombone. It is easily a crowd-pleaser.

A trombone can play slow, fast, sad, jazzy, but I like it best in a marching band. With its brass shining like gold in the stadium lights at a football game, it makes my eyes go directly toward it. Then the clear, crisp sound fills the night’s air as you are pleased by the sound of the bones on the field. Then in the stands, the ?bones are rocking and rolling with tunes like “Do Wah Diddy,” and “Louie Louie.” When I play my trombone, I feel confident that it is the most important instrument making a wonderful sound that always gets an encore from me.

What other instrument can catch your eye in the special way the trombone does? The trombone section in a band lights up a marching field with their magical performances. These crowd-pleasers are on top of my list. The trombones add the cherry on top of my list. The trombones add the cherry on top of the sundae. They make a sound all directors want to hear. My favorite instrument is by far the trombone.

Kaitlin Ek Grade 8 Irving Middle School Colorado Springs, Colo. Favorite Instrument: Ukulele Music Director: Christie Anderson

Once upon a time there was an ancient tribal sound. Listeners described it as exotic and tropical. Hawaiians called it jumping flea, or, in Hawaiian, ukulele. It was the unique tone and the whimsical design of it that soon drew players from all over the globe, like the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Pat Boone and Arthur Godfrey. It also drew me in too when I first saw it nestled in its little cardboard box, hidden in the corner of a music store like an afterthought. I bought it and a few music books, and I?ve been addicted to the little Hawaiian instrument ever since.

Something about the ukulele is so endearing. It is small enough for anyone to play, which is really nice because I can reach all of the frets and hold it comfortably, unlike when I try to play the guitar. It feels right in my hands, not so small it looks like a toy but not so big I can hide behind it.

Not only that, but it is so easy and fun to play, you just position your fingers and strum. It’s an easy instrument to learn quickly.

Finally, I love the soft plink-plunk sound of the ukulele when you play it. It’s like rain falling on a metal roof. The sound is so soothing, when I?m just chilling in my room and I can strum my stress away as I play the new great song I learned.

Blaise Garza Grade 8 Muirlands Middle School La Jolla, Calif. Favorite Instrument: Baritone Saxophone Music Director: Oscar Rodriguez

Even though its lacquer is dull and missing in places, my favorite musical instrument is my old 1956 Conn Baritone saxophone. The man who owned it before me played it in the Marine Corps Band for over 20 years! He thought it was time to pass it on to a new owner. At first I had trouble playing it, but now I can perform any music placed before me. The deep, rich sounds that come out are truly amazing. Its former owner told me I would grow to love this horn and I have. The pleasure I receive from hearing its deep, intense sounds as well as its high altissimo register can?t compare to anything! It is amazing to know that even before my parents were born someone else was making music with my bari. The feel of brass beneath my fingertips and the steady stream of breath from my lungs create music. Just breath and brass, and tunes everyone can enjoy. My saxophone has changed my outlook on music. I can say with all sincerity that my bari will be with me for at least the next 50 years, until I find someone like myself that will fill it with life and love.

Mia McGorry Grade 6 Bailey Middle School West Haven, Conn. Favorite Instrument: Trombone Music Director: Laura Langello

In fourth grade, when I first announced that I wanted to play the trombone, people were skeptical. Isn’ that a “boy’s” instrument? Isn’t that an instrument for a large person to play? So what if I am a girl, and kind of on the small side. I wanted to play the trombone! I was surprised that people had silly ideas about who should be playing what type of instrument. I figured I would show them what great sounds could come out of a little girl playing a big instrument. Not many fourth graders, whether they are boys or girls, selected the trombone. By picking that instrument, I helped round out my school band. I knew that if I played well and showed how much fun I was having with my trombone other younger students would be inspired to select a trombone as their instrument, too.

The trombone is an instrument that gets a lot of respect. Remember, it is 76 TROMBONES that led the big parade – not 76 flutes or 76 triangles! It looks impressive – long and sleek and it sounds that way, too -well, at least it does when you practice! I like the low, mellow sounds of the trombone. Sometimes when you play it you can make it sound like it is laughing or crying.

There is nothing cooler than to watch trombone players line up, moving their slides in sync. I am glad that I get to be one of them!

Alex Shrum Grade 5 Madison Creek Elementary School Goodlettsville, Tenn. Favorite Instrument: Trumpet Music Director: Tom Teachout

As a fifth grader just starting to see the opportunities in music, I have already decided that my favorite instrument is the trumpet. I guess the reason for that is that my sister, mom, uncle and great grandpa all played the trumpet. Since I could walk I have loved to pretend to play my mom’s old trumpet. My sister and mom were both in the marching band. I loved to watch my sister march with her big buccaneer hat and uniform in the Beech Buccaneer Brigade, so last summer my mom asked if I could caddie for the band. They said they would be glad to have me, so when the first week of band camp came I worked for two hours every day. The next week, a French horn player dropped out, leaving a hole in every formation. That afternoon, my sister asked if I could fill the hole by carrying my mom’s trumpet and promised to teach me how to march. I practiced until my feet hurt, and the next day I became the youngest marcher in the history of Beech High. Whenever we went to home games the football players yelled, “Who’s the midget?” I was embarrassed, but I was still proud. My year in the high school marching band has encouraged me even more to learn how to play the trumpet and has taught me that I truly love it.

GRADES 9 – 12

Angela Weir Grade 12 Horizon High School Scottsdale, Ariz. Favorite Instrument: Clarinet Music Director: Dave Cox

After eight years, five different bands, 30 auditions, over 75 used reeds, and with a smile bigger than a sousaphone, I am still a clarinetist, and a proud one at that. I chose to play clarinet when I was in fifth grade, and I?ve never regretted my decision. It may sound like a clich? to pick my own instrument as my favorite, but there isn’ a different instrument that has given me more joy than the clarinet has.

Music completes me. It transports me into a world where nothing could ever go wrong. The melodious harmonies, camaraderie I have with fellow musicians, and the sense of accomplishment that music gives me could never be replaced with any other feeling. In the crazy life I lead as a hormonal teenager, music brings me a sort of peace and allows me to be myself. I have learned to like a challenge, competition and hard work and I am constantly striving to be the best I can be. My clarinet has taught me these things through the different musical opportunities it brings me. Whenever I hear the warm tones of a clarinet, whether it be in a movie, on the radio, or in an orchestra. a rush of excitement races through my body. I’m continually amazed at the warm fuzzies I feel at something that is so simple to some, but so important to me, an aspiring clarinetist. The feelings the clarinet evokes in me will always make me a happier, brighter person.

Steven Morrison Grade 12 Kalama High School Kalama, Wash. Favorite Instrument: Tenor Saxophone Music Director: Kathy Welch

I remember the first time I heard it, the mellow tones of the tenor washing over me in the elementary gym. The whole experience was immortal. For the next few years, only one word was on my lips: saxophone. When I finally picked one up, the afternoon was filled with honking notes and listening with delight to the sounds reverberating from the old, beat-up bell.

As I learned my horn and the music, I was surprised at the expressiveness that seemed to be forged with the instrument itself. I would play a chart over and over, savoring the voice as it pulsed naturally in the melodious harmonies of song. A simple idea or feeling could be articulated with just one thought. My saxophone became a well filled with the notes and tones which mirrored the soul looking within. It became part of my life, a diet of sound ? the staple being the motivating feeling.

Seven years later I still pick up my horn and fill the afternoons with notes and delighted listening. Whenever I feel the pearly keys under my hands and the woody reed on my lip, I am at home and ready to play. Sweet honey flows from my fingers, welling up from within the bell and raining upon ears with their enchanting talismans of sound.

Kristen Evans Grade: 12 Mansfield High School Mansfield, Penn. Favorite Instrument: Bassoon Music Director: William Berresford

As the deep, sonorous tones of the bassoon soars into the air, an answering reverberation sounds in my soul. It is only fitting that the other-worldly music of the bassoon matches the most important and vital part of my entire being.

Since first laying eyes on my school’s rickety old bassoon, I fell deeply in love. As my hands explored the worn surface of the rosewood, the instrument seemed to respond to my touch. The desire to learn and explore this new land of musical knowledge grabbed me by the hand and pulled me down the path of pure passion. So this was the exhilaration Miles Davis felt every time he blew air through his trumpet; this was the magic Jimi Hendrix experienced fingering his first guitar chords! Coupled with the challenging race of fingers flying up the numerous keys and the constant need of enough breath support to sustain an elephant?s lungs, the bassoon presents many musical challenges. I find deep satisfaction from completing a piece intended to challenge any bassoon player, knowing that I have risen to the task. Each new challenge seems only to enhance the connection I feel with my instrument. Music is a language that the entire world can speak, and I feel very blessed that the earthy dialect of the bassoon courses through my very veins. What more could a musician ask for in a favorite instrument than a spiritual connection and constant challenge?

Maggie Lubinski Grade 12 Amherst Central High School Amherst, N.Y. Favorite Instrument: Violin Music Director: Steven Thomas

I love the mellow sound of my old violin, masterfully carved from timeless trees in Avignon. It passed through many hands and decades to find its home with me. How gently my bow glides atop the taut steel strings. The wooden box vibrates modestly beneath my chin, lifting delicate notes to melody. Spiccato tones appear from each live string as a quivering message is sent forth from the bow. My nimble fingers waltz on notes deliciously progressing allegro, largo, forte, piano. My spirit soars as the silver twines sing. How they take wing and carry bold the song for all to hear.

My old violin plays knowingly the hymns of grace, the sequences of Bach, the virtuosity of Viotti, Vitali and Vivaldi. It celebrates the Klezmer mournful traditions, and country folk around the world jig and reel to its lively rhythms. My old violin dances sugar plums for children, Strauss waltzes for those in love. It weeps with low tones and sweet sorrow for those gone by. At night it sleeps in ruby velvet robes waiting for life to begin when I play each day, every day, all day. My old violin melts into my soft heart — companions joined never to be apart.

Christina Skelle Grade 12 Waubonsie Valley High School Aurora, IL 60504 Favorite Instrument: Viola Music Director: Mark Liu

I have had this conversation many times. “You play violin?” “Viola,” I reply. “Oh, viola.” (The beginning is mispronounced like “violin.”) “What is that exactly?” “Vee-ola,” I correct, my patience beginning to wear thin. “It’s larger than a violin.” Playing an obscure string instrument involves constant explanation, yet I would never trade my beloved viola for a violin or cello.

I fell in love when an orchestra teacher, demonstrating to my fourth-grade class, played ?Beauty and the Beast? on the viola. That was my favorite movie, and I immediately knew this was my instrument. Years later, the unique sound I heard that day is still what I love most about the viola. My teacher calls it a “dark chocolate” sound, rich and gorgeous, and it resonates deep inside me. It sings in its beautiful middle range, never losing its fullness in a toneless growl or ascending so high that its notes become indistinguishable screeches. For flowing lines, expressing any emotion from great joy to profound sorrow, no instrument can match the viola. In orchestra, sometimes my section has such an interesting harmony part that I find it more fun than the melody. And when I finally do have the melody, I let everyone know this moment belongs to the violas.

The viola is beautiful and unique, and I love it. Although I know the misunderstandings that will follow whenever someone asks me what instrument I play, I answer with pride, “I’m a violist!”

Bonus Prize: Christina Clark, a senior at Dixie High School in St. George, Utah, who plays the violin, guitar, harmonica and piano, is the winner of the random drawing for two tickets to the Diva ’03 Concert on May 22 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, sponsored by VH1.

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