2013 Essay Contest Winners

Mike Lawson • Features • May 1, 2013

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Congratulations to the 2013 SBO essay scholarship winning students and their school music programs!


Austin Amestoy

Age 12

7th Grade

Laurel Middle School

Laurel, MT

If I was the principal of my school, I would incorporate a variety of important music related courses into my school. To begin, I would have piano as a required class. Piano would become a metaphorical gateway to learning other instruments, as it teaches how to read music and how to learn the notes. Music History would be another non-required course. The class would be a very important class for aspiring musicians because it would voice the importance of music to our society, and also explain how music came to be.

Another route to take would be band class. This would be the first class that students could get used to working together as a musical ensemble. It would also make available the use of new instruments, such as saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, flute, and bells. As an expansion of band, I would also include orchestra into my curriculum. It would be an excellent opportunity for students who took band to be introduced to string instruments, and enter into more complicated musical compositions.

Lastly, I would ensure choir was on my list of available musical classes. Choir holds a great chance for students to expand on their vocal abilities and increase their range of notes that they are capable of singing.

If I was the principal, I would make sure that the students of my school were enriched with choices in the field of music.

Grades 4-8

Austin Amestoy 7th Grade, Age 12 Mike Miller, Music Director Laurel Middle School Laurel, MT

Brittany Gelb 8th Grade, Age 13 Debra Reilly, Music Director Orefield Middle School Orefield, PA

Dennis Kouakou 8th Grade, Age 13 Thomas Luke, Music Director Dekalb Academy of Technology And Environment Stone Mountain, GA


Armando Serrano 8th Grade, Age 13 Stephen Rash, Music Director Odem Junior High School Odem, TX

Julia Vaillancourt 8th Grade, Age 13 Matthew Sawtelle, Music Director South Middle School Braintree, MA



Grades 9-12

Colleen Aiken 12th Grade, Age 17 Alex Robinson, Music Director Washington-Lee High School Arlington, VA

Abigail Fitts 12th Grade, Age 17 Frank Waggoner, Music Director Northside High School Columbus, GA

Arianna Santiago 12th Grade, Age 17 Albert Jeung, Music Director Aliso Niguel High School 28000 Wolverine Way Aliso Viejo, CA

Cydney Taylor 12th Grade Age 17 Raine Allen,Music Teacher Dr. Phillips High School Orlando, FL

Kayla Carin Thole 12th Grade, Age 17 Barry Zumwalde, Music Director Forest Lakes Area High School Forest Lakes, MN




Brittany Gelb

Age 13

8th Grade

Orefield Middle School

Orefield, PA

If I were school principal Oh the things I would do! Every class would be music It would be a musical zoo!

There’d be a class for saxophone A class to play piano A class to play the xylophone And a class to play the cello

I’d make a class just for singing Folk songs from long ago There’d be a class for bag pipes And a class for piccolo

I’d make a class for Celtic harp And for the Roman lyre There’d be a class for voice percussion And a soprano choir

I’d have a class for yodeling A class for clarinets A class for all the violins To play Bach minuets

There’d even be a class For inventing instruments Like the Lickadarp and O’dwanarp Whatever students can conspire

Any music you can imagine I’d have it at my school For music is my everything Music is my soul


Dennis Kouakou

Age 13

8th Grade

Dekalb Academy of Technology and Environment

Stone Mountain, GA

If I were the principal of my school, I would include a concert band, a marching band, and a jazz ensemble.

The reason why I would include a basic concert band is because it provides a foundation for kids who want to learn how to play an instrument. Its popular music helps the musician with sight reading. The light music a concert band plays with appeals to the beginning player with usually shorter pieces and sets designed to appeal to a wider audience than more serious compositions.

Next, the reason why i would have a marching band is so student musicians who have a passion for music can showcase their talent in a more publicized environment. The musician that participates in the marching band has learned how to play their instrument well and is very disciplined. They are happy to represent their school and wear marching uniforms with their school colors.

Finally, the reason why I would have a jazz ensemble is so that musicians who play instruments such as the bass guitar, bass clarinet, and alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones and have a special talent can showcase themselves in their own small group. The music that is played in a jazz ensemble has a swing to it that is rhythmic and tells a story.

All these ensembles are essential in providing a foundation for young musicians to learn and showcase their talents to the world and obtain notoriety amongst the best.


Armando Serrano

Age 13

8th Grade

Odem Junior High School

Odem, Texas

If I was principal, I would include jazz, marching band, and orchestra ensembles in my curriculum. I would include orchestra because it offers the widest variety of instruments a student can play. Orchestra includes all types of instruments, including strings, which is not included in many other ensembles. This would give students a broader range of instruments to choose from. If there is a bigger selection, then more students will play an instrument, and it is proven that students that play an instrument have a higher chance of getting into college. Another music ensemble I would have is marching band. To me and many others, marching band is the most fun ensemble. It allows you to play many interesting pieces, as well as letting your imagination loose by finding interesting ways to march and perform. Marching band also differs from other music ensembles, because instead of sitting stationary in a chair, the student is able to march and make the music come to life. It challen ges students by making them not only memorize the music, but the marching sets as well. The final ensemble I would include is jazz band, because it offers educational benefit. It is proven that if you listen to slow jazz, it makes you more calm, less violent, and helps you focus more. I would include these three musical ensembles because it would give the students a wide range of musical styles to choose from, and each of these musical ensembles offers multiple benefits and experiences.


Julia Vaillancourt

Age 13

8th Grade

South Middle School

Braintree, MA

If I was the school principal I would keep chorus, school band and orchestra in the curriculum because these classes teach students about the basics of music, singing and playing together, and covers many instruments. I would add a mariachi band to the curriculum. I think that a mariachi band would be a good addition because many students now think of band and orchestra music as slow and boring. If this type of music was added, students would be thrilled at fast tempo and up beat pieces. This music would teach a lot about rhythm, tempo, and syncopation. I would also add a country section and a rock ensemble. Usually boys by middle school drop band or orchestra class because they think that they shouldn’t play instruments, it’s not cool for them, but with a rock band they can be banging their heads along with the music that they can be producing. Many girls are interested now in country music, because of new celebrities that play country music, such as Taylor Swift and Bla ke Shelton. Children who play guitar and piano, and those who sing popular songs would be able to participate with enthusiasm. With these different categories children could have different choices in what they want to pursue in music instead of just band and orchestra class.


Colleen Aiken

Age 17

12th Grade

Washington-Lee High School

Arlington, VA

Washington-Lee already has many large musical ensembles but no small ensemble groups. As the school’s principal, I would like to introduce a group of small ensembles that would allow students to play a greater range of music of their own choice. This would be implemented as an extracurricular activity, which would give the students an opportunity to work on the music at their own pace, and many different venues to play their music. This organization would primarily be student run so that practicing schedules would be arranged by each ensemble. One of the music department teachers would meet with each ensemble once each week to check on the students’ progress and give pointers on music performances. The small ensemble groups would not only encourage a tremendous amount of responsibility on the students’ behalf but it would also give the students a better understanding of music performances in the real world. Each ensemble would be responsible for choosing the music and finding opportunities to perform their music selections. This high degree of independence would foster student collaboration and encourage self-discipline. I believe that students will appreciate the great degree of freedom the administration is placing in them and that the students will honor that trust. A relationship based on mutual trust would instill respect between the faculty and the students.


Abigail Fitts

Age 17

Grade 12

Northside High School

Columbus, Ga

If I were given the chance to be the principal of my high school, the ensembles I would create would include the normal band, chorus, and orchestra classes as well as a beginner’s band ensemble and an inclusion class with chorus, band, and orchestra combined. I believe that the symphonic band, chorus, and orchestra ensembles are important because they will allow advanced students to continue their knowledge of music and its origins as well as challenge them with the music of well-known composers and arrangers. The beginning band class will allow students who have not been exposed to musical concepts to experience the musical world through the study of music history, theory, composition, and of course performance. The inclusion class will be a class reserved for advanced students alone. They will have had at least four years of playing experience on their particular instrument and shown interest and involvement in advancing their knowledge of their instrument and their capab ilities. Because I’ve experienced a full orchestral setting, I know this will be a class that is prestigious and an honor to be a part of. I feel that it is important for students to be exposed to all types and forms of music, not just their particular genre. This class will allow them to experience that and enjoy music at its best.


Arianna Santiago

Age 17

12th Grade

Aliso Niguel High School

Aliso Viejo, CA

As principal of the best school ever, “Open Ensembles” would be part of my school’s curriculum. These ensembles would consist of two to five students collaborating to play self-chosen compositions at functions where background music is appropriate: lunch, theater performances, award ceremonies, and community functions. These ensembles would be temporary and fluid with students forming various combinations throughout the year. Practice time could be minimal or extensive and would consist of any time that works for that particular group during that specific season. Many music students already enjoy informal jam sessions, so open ensembles would continue to connect students and form friendships. A mix of different instrument combinations and styles of music would be encouraged, whether classical or pop, baroque or folk, string quartet or piano quintet. These ensembles would allow students to expand their music repertoires, teach skills needed for professional performan ce, and improve their playing level. Above all, the most important reason behind the ensembles is to expose all people to a variety of music. My desire is to share my love of music, help others grow in appreciation, and develop life-long supporters of the arts.


Cydney Taylor

Age 17

12th Grade

Dr Phillips High School

Orlando, FL

If I were the principal at my high school, the musical ensembles I would incorporate in my curriculum would be very diverse and eclectic. The community in which we live is made up of so many cultures and I would like for there to be more opportunities for students to be able to express themselves musically. I would like to reach beyond the typical chorus, band and orchestra choices and stretch to be more inclusive and reach other genres. I would like a jazz ensemble and a rock band with both including vocalists. So many teenagers start their own garage bands and it would be great to foster that creativity within the school system. I would also like a symphony orchestra that would include string, percussion, woodwind and brass instruments. The mixture of those instruments produces a beautiful sound that many students don’t usually get to appreciate. I would also like to have African music classes. So many styles of music have their roots in African music-it would be an excellent way to break down stereotypes and teach the students how the pop music they enjoy evolved over the decades. Studies have shown that children who play a musical instrument reap many benefits: stimulation of cognitive development, verbal memory, mathematics support and intelligence. Providing a more open curriculum offers more students the chance to reap the benefits music education brings.


Kayla Carin Thole

Age 17

12th Grade

Forest Lake Area High School

Forest Lake, MN

If I were a school’s principal, I would include a variety of musical ensembles in the curriculum. This would include bands, orchestras, choirs, and other groups.

In regards to bands, I would provide both an ensemble for less experienced students and an ensemble for more advanced pupils (placement determined by audition). I believe everyone should have the opportunity to learn to play an instrument. My school uses a system like this, and I believe it works well. However, I would go one step further and offer jazz band as a class worth as much credit as the other bands, with pep band, drumline, and marching band remaining extracurricular activities because of their more “club-like” atmosphere.

For orchestra, I would similarly offer two string groups based on experience, but I would also provide a full orchestra class. My school combines students from the band and string orchestra classes occasionally for pieces, but I believe it would be a great opportunity for students to have this offered as a regular class. As principal, I would include guitar classes for beginners and more learned students, so that all students have the chance to learn acoustic guitar.

My curriculum would include four vocal classes, two of which would be a beginner and more advanced class, like the offerings of instrumental classes. Men’s and women’s choir would be fulltime classes so students can receive credit for their hard work.

As principal, I would work hard to provide a musical ensemble to fit every student’s interests.

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