2012 Essay Contest Winners

Mike Lawson • Features • April 23, 2012

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

Dear School Board Member,

Music classes are building blocks to a higher educational standard and should be included in all schools.

Playing music, or even singing are activities that use a lot of skills. Multi-tasking is a large part of it. Having one eye on the music, another on the teacher, and playing at the same time requires a great deal of focus from a student, and our minds slowly start to use the same amount of attentiveness in all other classes as well. About three fourths of the orchestra students in my local high school are in honors or advanced placement classes.

Not only do music classes enrich a student’s academics, they also increase communication and cooperation skills. For instance, I have a huge fear of playing my cello onstage, or singing by myself. But when you’re surrounded by people you learned and grew with, there is an air of confidence that is difficult to reach by yourself. Harmony is an essential key to good music. Music classes help reach that level, and they provide discipline.

Orchestra and chorus are outlets for me. Playing my cello lets me express myself, and relaxes me after difficult school courses. Chorus on the other hand is also beneficial by giving me an opportunity to interact with my peers who have similar interests to mine. Without these classes I couldn’t do all this.

Music classes are a must for every school. They are needed for a student to reach their maximum potential.

Insia Khan
Age 13
Grade 8
Jane Addams Jr. High
Schaumburg, IL


Dear School Board Member,

We need music education in school because music is a universal language, which builds unity in diversity, and eases communication. Music has the power to attract students and make school time more enjoyable. The real way to learn music is directly from a teacher, since there are several aspects of music that a book cannot teach.

I come from India, where music is considered “Nada Brahma,” which means “Sound is God.” It is believed that it was the sound “Om” and not light that appeared first during the creation of the universe. While everyone speaks about the benefits music gives in our everyday life, such as mind/brain development, social/leadership skills, academic achievement, and self discipline, music also gives spiritual and moral discipline. The greatest gift I received from my school district was the opportunity to learn how to play the violin. Learning violin made me a much better person than I was before.

Music is an ocean; it has no language or cultural barriers. For example, the violin was considered a Western instrument in Indian classical music, but has now become an integral part of Indian traditional music. For a listener, music is a means of joy. As a violin player, I have experienced that music becomes joy. There are a lot of things music teaches us in life that our educational books could never teach. Learning music teaches virtues which help me in life beyond just getting a perfect GPA.

Devayani Varma
Age 12
Grade 7
Frances Harper Junior High
Davis, CA


Dear School Board Member,

Seated in front of a sea of parents and friends at our winter orchestra concert, I take a deep breath and bow the beginning notes of “Palladio” by Karl Jenkins. Our director’s swift baton keeps our tempo and rhythm steady. When the piece ends, I nestle my violin in rest position, and we take a bow. The school theater thunders with applause, and I smile at my stand partner. Our concert was a success, thanks to the focus and teamwork of each member of the Symphony orchestra. Orchestra concerts are some of my favorite middle school memories. The camaraderie with fellow musicians and the beautiful music we make during orchestra inspires me to continue studying the violin. I believe that music education has a vital role in schools. Music classes have taught both leadership and cooperation. The patience and perseverance I have learned from tackling difficult orchestra pieces has helped me achieve academically, too. In band, orchestra and choir, students develop self-confidence and poise by performing in front of an audience. For kids who don’t have access to private music teachers, band or orchestra gives them the opportunity to learn an instrument. Our school district has faced serious budget problems. Some consider the arts a luxury and have suggested cutting these programs to balance the budget. Fortunately, students, parents and teachers have spoken out in support of music education. Just like me, they’ve realized that orchestra and band provide some of the most rewarding experiences in public education.

Eliza K. Cain
Age 14
Grade 8
Kealing Middle School
Austin, TX


Dear School Board Member,

Everyone knows that it is important to get a good education. Students work hard to learn core subjects like math, science, history, and English. These are not the only subjects that students should focus on. Music education is as important as all other areas in a students school day, for many reasons.

Music education teaches students more than just how to read music. It teaches self-control and self-discipline. The saying “practice makes perfect” is proven when learning to play an instrument. When a student practices, progress can be seen almost daily. Students learn that it takes dedication, time, and hard work to reach goals.

More than self accomplishment, learning an instrument teaches team work. Like a team sport, members in a band must learn to depend on each other. Students learn the importance of doing their part in a group. A group of musicians playing together can make beautiful music. When the members of a band work together, each person depends on other members to be successful. This is an important lesson in life. It sometimes takes many people working together to accomplish a goal.

Learning how to play an instrument is a benefit to students. Learning self-discipline, self-control, and team work are lessons that help students become more successful in all areas of education.

Caroline Hamilton
Age 12
Grade 6
Princess Anne Middle School
Virginia Beach, VA


Dear School Board Member,

I was born with hemiplegic cerebral palsy and at a very young age my parents enrolled me in a viola program as an alternative to physical therapy. I didn’t think I was really any good at playing the viola until in 4th grade when I auditioned and made it into my elementary school’s intermediate orchestra program, skipping the beginning orchestra. Then in 5th grade I auditioned and made the middle school orchestra. Now I am in 7th grade and am proud to say I am the section leader for the violas in my school’s orchestra.

If there wasn’t a program available to me where I could develop musically, I would never have thought anything existed at school where I could actually be considered accomplished. It has made music such a big part of my life to the point that I do not see giving it up and would feel a loss without it. To me playing music is fun, and my doctor said it is loosening up the tightness in my right arm.

I struggle physically to get on time to class or participate in team sports and kids might think there is something off with my coordination. But when I represent my school at performances and competitions my confidence builds, and I forget my daily challenges. Participating in my school’s music program has given me a wonderful talent.

Alex Jiricek
Age 12
Grade 7
Hadley Middle School
Glen Ellyn, IL


Dear School Board Member,

Band should be kept in school because it provides students with another opportunity to advance their learning and education. Schools integrating music into their curriculum as part of a comprehensive education strategy document positive growth in the school environment and improved student performance. Expanding band outside the classroom to include marching band also promotes physical fitness and health. Marchers work to the point of physical and mental exhaustion as they must play and march in time with their peers.

Band tends to work like a normal classroom as well, especially with the progression of skills. Much like math, where the student advances from simple multiplication to algebra to trigonometry, a band student must progress on their instrument starting with the fundamentals of music. They must then refine their sound, with the practice of scales and rhythms, to become more proficient with their instrument, much like homework. A band student must put this practice into context, similar to application of principles in math, by reading music and creating a beautiful sound with others in the band.

The listening skills needed by a band student, as well as an advanced playing ability, requires an enormous amount of critical thinking, just like any other class. This justifies that band should stay in schools, as it challenges students just the same as other classes and also requires them to work hard outside of school while promoting a great use of group skills necessary for the future workplace.

Brinley Swanson
Age 17
Grade 12
Warner Robins High School
Warner Robins, GA


Dear School Board Member,

Music programs have curriculums with rigorous content and achievement standards at state and national levels. The programs require highly educated teachers to challenge students to perform musical works, create their own works, and respond emotionally to musical literature. In reality, not all students involved in the program choose to make a career out of their musical abilities. That fact should never lower the importance of allowing music to be a part of school systems. Opponents may argue that the information taught in math, science, and English classes ultimately benefit students more. However music programs expose students to culture while teaching critical thinking skills; few classes have such influence. Often traditional courses are places ahead of the fine arts: in funding, in respect, in value. Therefore controversial, musical programs deserve equal footing in all educational aspects.

School systems must include music programs to give opportunities for students to learn skills, attitudes, and habits applicable to life. These skill sets cannot be copied from a book, recited, or assessed by means of a standardized test. Instead, one experiences them in a creative and expressive environment. If students are to fully embrace the rich and diverse cultures of the world; if they are to live up to their full cognitive potential; if they are to prepare for living and working in a technologically driven world; and if they are to live a life alive and wide-awake to the possibilities yet to come, this promise of the fine arts within education must be realized.

Katie Bubb
Age 17
Grade 12
Havre de Grace High School
Havre de Grace, MD


Dear School Board Member,

Music education is essential to school curriculum because it fosters student growth academically, socially, and emotionally. Studies have shown that music students excel academically – my AP and advanced classes are filled with music students. Music education inspires teamwork, discipline, and leadership in students in a way nothing else can. It creates new ways of thinking that help students process the world around them. Deeper than academics, music touches the mind as well as the soul, allowing students to form connections that reach across time, space, and social barriers. My school’s band is a socially diverse group that envelops all kinds of stereotypes. Despite these divisions, these students identify with one another because they can say “we are the band” and make gorgeous music. During a time in students’ lives when they are so socially divided, unity through music is a very healthy experience. Most importantly, when students walk into a music class, they can leave all their struggles at the door. Music classes are safe environments where students can pour their entire beings into beautiful expressions of raw emotion. Teenagers find refuge from surrounding pressure and swirling emotions when they make music together. Many students lack the means to experience the phenomenon of creating music, but music education in schools makes it accessible. Music education must continue in schools if its unique academic, social, and emotional benefits to students are to be reaped.

Emily Hall
Age 16
Grade 11
Meadowdale High School
Lynnwood, WA


Dear School Board Member.

We need music education in our schools because music classes contribute to the development of creativity. Music education also allows students to think better; studies have shown that music education increases students’ IQs and improves test grades. It also lowers recidivism rates, increases self-esteem, and helps develop better problem solving and communication skills. I can see this in me because my grades have been improving slowly and I have also gotten more involved in school. Music education also provides students a better understanding of musical instruments as well. As a band student, I realized how complex an instrument is and how much effort is needed to play one; therefore, I have gained more respect to other players. Practicing instruments helps build up patience and gives us the ability to persevere through obstacles that we may later encounter in our lives. Music does not discriminate against minorities; people with disabilities or other problems in their lives can express their feelings through music if they cannot express their feelings verbally. This is why we need music education; it helps out so many people in different ways. Music education may impact an individual strongly yet that individual can impact others around him or her contributing to the welfare for everyone. Hopefully I will grow up and become successful in the world knowing that the music education program helped me to succeed and become who I am.

Sujean Kim
Age 16
Grade 11
Mount Vernon High School
Mount Vernon, WA


Dear School Board Member,

Music education provides intellectual experiences that are not available in traditional textbook environments. In music programs, students receive the opportunity to actively participate in their education. Instead of listening to lectures, they are immersed in all facets of education. In bands and orchestras, performers have specific roles – if one part is missing, then the ensemble is incomplete. Such an environment allows students to mature, gain responsibility, and acquire patience. Not only must they be patient and allot time to practice their parts in order to master technique, they must also acquire the skill of working harmoniously with the rest of the group. The maturity and responsibility that the students acquire serve as foundations for future aspirations – where exemplary teamwork, unity, and dependability are important assets. In addition, students are pushed to apply their musical knowledge through compositions, giving them outlets for their creativity; they are encouraged to culminate their life experiences and emotions by expressing them though music. As a result, musicians learn the value of individuality and character. Students can also participate in concerts, which provide friendly environments for students to gain confidence and self-esteem, while also sharing the joy of music with friends and families. Thus, music benefits both the performers and the audience, making these “hands-on” experiences unlike those offered in normal classroom settings. By balancing musical education with other academics, students receive an encompassing education, making it an invaluable resource and a significant factor in the success and happiness of the students.

Amy Chung
Age 17
Grade 12
Monta Vista High School
Cupertino, CA

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