2001 Essay Contest Winners

Mike Lawson • Features • February 9, 2011

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Amanda Coon First prize $2500 4th to 8th grade Band Director Jodi Tritle Eighth Grade, flute Spirit Lake Middle School, Spirit Lake, Iowa

I play music because that’s what I am. Music is my personality, my work, my education or in other words my life. Music lets me entertain myself and the world with my heart and soul. I play for myself and others so that maybe I can inspire someone else to do what I do. Express, inspire, play. That is what I do.


Music to me means hundreds of hours of babysitting to earn money for a piccolo and for a piano. It means my future, my career, everything I have. Music to me is also my family. They are there to encourage me and to help me cure my stage fright. My parents I owe a big part for taking me to all my private lessons for flute and piano and helping me pay for my instruments. No matter what they are always at my performances. That is why I play music and what it means to me.

Tibrine da Fonseca Second prize, $1,000 9th to 12th grade Band Director, John New 11th Grade, flute, piccolo Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School, South Yarmouth, Mass.

Why do I play music? Because music is the language of the world. For an immigrant to the United States, the challenges of a new life and a new world are as far away as the planets. But music overthrows all bounds and breaks the chattels of prejudice which greet me at every doorstep. I know that when I am playing the flute, my skin color and race do not matter ‘ but rather my quality of sound and intonation. I don’t understand how people in this world can be so caught up in what makes up a person’s ethnic background or race when there is music. Music gives me the opportunities some people can never have. Growing up in the United States, I find safety and acceptance in my school concert band and marching band. Perhaps I am a band geek, but in my eyes they are my best friends and music is what has brought me to them and they to me.

Leah Gates Second prize $1,000 4th to 8th grade Band Director, Ben Carroccio Eighth Grade, trombone Loftis Middle School, Hixson, Tenn.

Music is everything. It is both the center and the support of everything I do, love and believe. Music is a fire lit by the soul, fed by the heart, and extinguished by nothing. When I play music, the energy of those who inspired it, wrote it, played it, and were touched by it is channeled through me. It lets me release pain and fear and anger by letting those emotions drive the sound. When I practice, it relieves me, shuts out the world to make something other than my problems important. When I perform, it is the most incredible spiritual high I have ever experienced, and I can’t stop smiling. If I can succeed in music, I know I can handle the world. Even when music doesn’t originate from me, it has power over and in me. The notes can wipe away my tears. The rhythms can take me away. And the message can change my mind and my life.

Charissa C. Huang First prize, $2500 9th to 12th grade Orchestra Director, Mary Hinderliter 11th Grade, violin, piano Portage Central High School, Portage, Mich.

Hispano-Roman archbishop, saint and historian Isadore of Seville once said, “Nothing exists without music, for the universe itself is said to be framed by a kind of harmony of sounds, and the heaven itself revolves under the tones of that harmony.” I couldn’t have said it better, for it’s clear that in the midst of society’s constant struggle for bigger and better lives, the importance of music is underrated. I’m grateful that within my parents’ busy lives, they found time and money to invest into piano and violin lessons. I owe everything to the music teachers who have transformed my soul from that of an ordinary kid to one of a musician. Thanks to them, I’m not only playing notes, but discovering new worlds, exploring the unknown, and striving for nothing less than heaven. To others, I may be just a piano or violin player, but the heart of a musician is filled with pure inspiration. The structural complexity of Bach is like food for me, the aggressiveness of Beethoven like fire, and the Romanticism of Chopin like passion. This is why I have decided to dedicate my life to passing this love through education. Music is an indescribable phenomenon; a global language making people laugh and cry, speaking to all nations, and accomplishing more than one can imagine. Through playing and sharing music with others, I breathe life and love into a world in need of unattainable harmony. This is the ultimate goal of the musician.

Benjamin J. Paulsen Third prize, $500 4th to 8th grade Band Instructor, Terry Ranney Eighth Grade, saxophone Camels Hump Middle School, Richmond, Vt.

When I first picked up the saxophone, I was amazed at its complexity. I thought that I would never learn how to use it. Then I had my first lesson and it was like turning on a light in a dark room. It was suddenly so clear and simple.

When I play the saxophone, my heart goes free. It’s as if the notes are wings for my soul. I start playing a piece and I become the song.

I fly over the notes, my fingers working the instrument. As I race across the page, the saxophone becomes an extension of myself. I am oblivious to all other things except the music.

I race over hills and valleys, faster and faster. My heart races as I fly. Suddenly, the music ends and I am standing with my friends as people applaud.

Elizabeth Stewart Third prize, $500 9th to 12th grade Band Director, Andrew Soucy Ninth Grade, clarinet Londonderry High School, Londonderry, N. H.

At the beginning of the fifth grade, I dusted off my grandfather’s old clarinet, and played my first squeaky note. Although the pads were practically falling off, and the reed was a little chipped, I knew I wanted to play that instrument. The band director told me that my grandfather’s clarinet was hardly worth fixing so I received a used one from Ted Herbert’s for Christmas that year. That is how my music career started.

I used to visit my grandfather in the nursing home to play for him jazz tunes, Christmas music, or a piece I had just learned at school. Music meant seeing my granddad John’s smile light up the whole room. He loved listening to me play. If it was just “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “In the Mood.”

When my granddad John passed away during seventh grade, I knew I didn’t want to stop playing. Whenever I pick up my clarinet I think about standing in his nursing home room seeing his smile light up my life. I know he loved me whatever I did, but by playing the clarinet I connected to him in a way I never had before. I connected to him through music.

Amy Artese The winner of our drawing for two tickets to a VH1 Music Director, James Beyer 12th grade, flute, piccolo, voice Washington Township High School, Sewell, New Jersey

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