2002 Essay Contest Winners

Mike Lawson • Features • February 9, 2011

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Winners receive a $1,000 scholarship to help further their music education. Winners’ schools receive $1,000 worth of music products from the competition’s co-sponsors – Yamaha Corporation of America, Avedis Zildjian Co., Alfred Publishing and United Musical Instruments.



Chris Hunt Williamsburg Middle School Arlington, VA Age: 11 Instrument: Flute Director: Adrian Hoffman

Flute-playing is the heart of my life. Not a day goes by that it doesn’t give me pleasure, satisfaction, challenge and reward.

When I picked up the flute in third grade, I was one of many boys and girls who were excited about the new adventure of instrumental music. As time passed by, I found myself mesmerized by my instrument. It was like magic. The more I poured myself into my music, I could see improvement in my fingering and reading of notes. It was exhilarating.

I can’t honestly say how much my flute playing has added to my life because it overflows into all areas of my life. It has become a daily part of my life with teachers and school band. I love to play my flute; and practicing just reinforces my self-confidence and desire to play.

Since I have seriously played the flute, I have realized how important it is to apply yourself to something you love. The rewards are vast. I have learned that you can accomplish anything you strive for if you apply yourself (even when it seems impossible) and I generalize that to many areas outside music. I have gained great self esteem and I live to play and I hope to play for others and with others for a long time to come. If I am very fortunate some day I will be asked to teach others and it would be my pleasure because it is not just about music!

Amanda Hay Haysville Middle School Haysville, KS Grade: 6 Instrument: Violin Director: Donna Hansen

Music has influenced my life in many ways. When I’m mad, playing the violin or listening to music helps me calm down and makes me feel relaxed. When I need something to do, I play my violin because it keeps me occupied and I can practice while I am playing. When I’m playing my violin, it makes me feel like I’m different because not every person can play an instrument or can play the violin. Feeling different is okay for me because it’s really excellent the way I play my instrument that makes me feel different. Everyone plays their instrument differently.

My dad is a very good influence because he likes music, too. He is a disc jockey and is a very good one. He has helped me develop a love for all kinds of music. He lets me listen to the kind of music I like best. He knows how important music is and how good it makes me feel. My brother wants to be just like my dad. He pretends he is a disc jockey with his karaoke machine. We all have fun listening to them. Another big musical influence is my uncle, Jim Kent. He is in a rock ‘n’ roll band. He is very talented and he plays a lot of instruments, like guitar, saxophone, keyboard, harmonica, banjo and even an accordion. He also likes to write music and he is a good singer. He wanted me to teach him the violin so I have been giving him lessons for a couple of months. He says I’m a good teacher. That makes me feel special inside.

I am glad that music is in my life because it is a very good influence. It’s brought our family closer through sharing a common bond. It’s given each of us a chance to share our knowledge and talents in an enjoyable way.

Hope Kessinger Augusta Middle School Augusta, KS Grade: 7 Instrument: Trumpet Director: Dave MacAdam

Ever since I started band in fifth grade, my life has been influenced in several ways. Band takes away some of my time because I have a responsibility of practicing so that when we perform, we can sound the best that we can. Taking band has also influenced my by making me a better math student. When we do problem-solving worksheets in class, I think I improve because I discover and use different ways of finding the answer to a problem. Playing our scales in class has made a big influence in my life because I’ve overcome my fear of presenting projects and papers in other classes. It was very hard to play my scales in front of all 63 of my peers, but now that I don’t get nervous anymore, presenting in my English or math class is no big deal. Band is great, and it has influenced my life in a lot of good ways, and I encourage everyone I know to get involved.

Camille Hommeyer Ramsey Junior High School St. Paul, MN Grade: 7 Instrument: Clarinet and piano Director: Jeff Levine

Since I was a baby I have been surrounded by music. At night my mom and dad always sang me to sleep. My parents have close Native American friends and I love to go to powwows and dance to their music. My school has a music program called Connect Concerts where people from the St. Paul Orchestra come to our school and present their instruments, play music and answer questions. These experiences have influenced me to learn and listen to music. I love all different types and genres of music, both modern and traditional, from jazz, pop, rock, folk, classical to klezmer and other world music. Our world is full of music. I would be a very different person without it. I have been influenced by jazz players like Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. In third grade, I went to a performance at Orchestra Hall, where a 14-year-old clarinetist played an amazing solo. After that, I knew I wanted to play the clarinet. Now, I play the clarinet in my school’s jazz band. Also, I have been playing the piano for four years. Music has influenced my life greatly. Maybe I will become a great musician or composer like Louis Armstrong, George Gershwin, Beethoven or Bach! But, for now, I must learn, and listen to music, for no matter where I’ll be, music will always be a part of me.

Patrina Furnace Hazlehurst Middle School Hazlehurst, MS Grade: 8 Instrument: Clarinet Director: Booker Walker

Music has influenced my life by giving me the opportunity to do things that I never thought I would be able to do. My dream is to become a recording artist and share my love for music with the rest of the world. Because of the small town I live in, these dreams often seemed limited and hopeless. However, my dream seemed reachable when I joined the school band. Before I joined band, I loved to write songs, listen to music and sing. I am now able to do all of these things and learn as much as I can about music in the process. Listening to all of the great stories my director tells about his life as a musician and him traveling with many stars really pushes me toward my goal every day. Because of the band, a part of my dream became a reality. Last May, our band traveled to Paris, France, and gave several concerts. That experience has given me an extra boost of confidence. It no longer matters that I live in a small town, but that the dream in my heart is bigger than the world. I am encouraged today because I no longer feel that my dreams are limited and the opportunities to reach them are unlimited. Music and my love for it grows each and every day. I am influenced by it to become the greatest person I can be, and to pursue my goals and dreams no matter what.

Amanda Mynatt Spring Valley High School Columbia, S.C. Grade: 11 Instrument: Clarinet Director: Brad Layton

“Play out!” “Press the keys harder!” “Louder!” These phrases were frequent in my teacher’s vocabulary during my lessons. I was trying, but my very shy and quiet personality was reflected through my playing, but one day this began to change. My teacher told me that since I was a quiet person, I should use music to express my feelings, thoughts and emotions. I’m not really sure if I understood what this meant at first, but now that I look back through the years, I see that music is how I express myself. Any day that I am angry or sad, I can sit down and play the music that matches my mood, and inevitably begin to feel better. I began to enjoy playing much more and truly did express myself through my fingers. Having never played team sports, when I joined my school band as a clarinet player, I learned how to work with others and come together to produce beautiful music. Marching band taught me self-discipline as I was forced to rise very early in the morning and work all day in the hot and humid weather. I made many friends and “came out of my shell” through music. I am still not a loud person – and I never will be, but the beautiful gift of music in my life has given me opportunities to become a more self-confident and stronger person. I have learned to express my emotions through melodies and harmonies.

Chris Siegmund Auburn High School Auburn, WA Grade: 11 Instrument: Saxophone and piano Director: Kevin Paustian

Music has opened a gateway to another world, a world of beauty and emotion. A world where I have become a permanent resident. Ever since my parents enrolled me in piano lessons at the age of five, music has touched my life in every way imaginable. It has given me confidence and allows me to express my emotions in a positive way. Each time I play one of my saxophones or the piano, it’s as though I am telling a story. Wile others in kindergarten were distinguishing blue from yellow, I was already counting beats in a measure, which led to me excelling in mathematics. At 14 I was hired to work at a local music store. Because of my musical background, people came to me with their music and instrument queries. I enjoy helping people experience music. I have traveled and met new people, thanks to music. Our marching band marched at Disneyland and traveled in Washington and Canada this year. I met people I wouldn’t normally meet, such as the friends I made by auditioning for and making the Western International Band Clinic Honor Band for the past two years, and the All-State Band for the last three years. Music is my life now and will be in the future, as I intend it to be my major in college. I see music as a good thing and I’m glad I get to experience the pleasure music has brought me, and I’m honored to share it with others.

Kate Bloch Carmel High School Carmel, IN Grade: 12 Instrument: Trumpet Director: Richard Saucedo

I have been blessed with countless musical opportunities in my short life (as well as supportive parents). Through my experiences, accomplishments and summers spent at great places like Interlochen and Tanglewood, I have learned that music is not about being the absolute best in the world. It’s about sharing your talents and gifts with others and listening to what they have to offer. It is about being the best musician you personally can be. I have learned that it is okay to be second chair. My life as a musician has shown me that competitive placings are not always everything. I would much rather give my performance of a lifetime and not win anything at all than pull off a mediocre performance and win everything. Reaching your highest potential is the highest achievement anyone can be awarded. Music has taught me to leave my heart on the stage and have no regrets about the performances I give. It’s about giving all of yourself to the audience right then and there. I feel that this philosophy can be applied to everyday life as well. And I can only hope that I will live my life that way. I hope that I will pour my heart and soul into everything I do, and truly enjoy each day I spend on this beautiful planet of ours. I will always try to watch the sun rise and stop and smell the roses, but I will never forget to listen to the music.

Katie Morstad Watertown High School Watertown, WI Grade: 12 Instrument: French Horn Director: Thom Heninger

The music in my life has developed much like theme and variations. The simple melodies of lullabies and children’s choirs have blossomed into the more elaborate experiences of concert choir and wind ensemble. No matter how complex and challenging my musical experiences have become, I will always hear the one simple theme that inspires it all – my love for music. It is the view of music that affects the way I look at very difficult pieces and also at the musicians around me. I am not intimidated by the challenge of the score or by the talent of those around me. Rather, I am drawn closer to both. The first time our wind ensemble heard Dimitri Shostakovich’s Festive Overture it seemed unattainable. We set goals and deadlines for ourselves because we were determined to perform it and perform it well. And that we did. The sense of accomplishment was tremendous and yet, like the accelerando at the end of the piece, I feel I am racing on to something even greater. My ultimate goal is to teach music, instilling in others a love for music and helping them develop their own personal variations on that theme. Music fills me with an excitement that nothing else can provide. I want to be able to experience that every day.

Kevin Miller Nederland High School Nederland, Texas Grade: 12 Instrument: Bass trombone and euphonium Director: Greg Rose

Having been involved in music the past seven years of my life, music has not just been a hobby, but a moral lesson in my life. Music is not just notes on a page but an amplification of one’s emotions. To make music, one just doesn’t have to play the right notes but put one’s feelings and emotion into it. This principle applies not just to music but to everything in life. In order to be successful, I have realized through music that I have to put my heart and soul into everything I do in order to achieve my goals. These ethics have been enforced to me through my high school band and being a member of the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps. In the Scouts the philosophy is to do beyond one’s expectations, reach for higher standards not only as performers but as people as well, to work as a team, to share your talents with others and to do your best. So therefore you can’t be disappointed if you know you did your best. Music has not only influenced my life but the way I pursue it. Through music I have come to an understanding that if you look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, “Did I do the best I could?” and answer, “Yes,” you will never be disappointed in yourself and can achieve anything you set your sights on. I consider myself fortunate to have learned these life lessons through music.

Bonus Prize: Ryan Ward, a 12th-grade percussionist from Colton High School in Colton, Calif., is the winner of two tickets to VH1 Divas Live 2002 in Las Vegas, courtesy of VH1.

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