2009 Essay Contest Winners

Mike Lawson • Features • July 6, 2009

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More than 7,000 students from all part of the United States and several foreign countries participated in SBO’s 9th annual Music Students Scholarship Essay contest, co-sponsored by NAMM, Alfred Publishing, Hershey Fund Raising, Yamaha Corporation of America and Avedis Zildjian. This year’s theme “How Does Music Unite Cultures Within Your School and Community?” had multiple winners from the states of Texas and California, and, for the first time, a winning essay came from the country of Kosovo, from an American student studying there. To date, $180,000 in scholarships and music products has been awarded to 81 school music programs.

Allison Wrenn Thomas, the 18-year-old senior at Cesk Zadeja Music High School in Kosovo, entered this winning essay:

As an American attending a music high school in the war-torn country of Kosovo, I have had the privilege to witness firsthand the power of music to unite diverse cultures. Music has opened the door to many personal friendships with Kosovars that I will cherish for life. Music has also become a bridge between the local Muslim community and the American Peacekeeping Forces. I remember the first time American soldiers visited our dilapidated school. Curiosity and tension vibrated in the air until Liridon sat down to the piano. As a Kosovar folk song filled the room, the atmosphere dissolved into smiles and applause: we had found a common language. The soldiers came often after that. They invited us to perform on their base and also attended our school concerts. As the only American attending this local school, I was increasingly drawn upon as an interpreter, liaison, and musical consultant.


A particular highlight was a 4th of July concert sponsored by the local community for U.S. soldiers. City Hall was packed with Kosovars and Americans. I’ll never forget everyone rising to their feet as my classmate, Beltina, and I sang the first notes of the American National Anthem. The program continued with a lively mixture of local folk songs and American patriotic songs performed by our school choir and instrumentalists. It was a privilege to be a part of these musical events, which brought together the U.S. Forces and the local Kosovar community, contributing to peace in the world’s newest republic.

Timothy Anderson
Franklin High School
900 North Resler
El Paso, TX 79912
Age 17
Grade 12
Music Director: Bruce Beach

Allison Wrenn Thomas
Cesk Zadeja Music High School
Ferizaj, Republic of Kosovo
Age 18
Grade 12
Music Director: Lindita Isufi

Lilian Chou
Wheaton Warrensville South High
1993 Tiger Tail
Wheaton, IL 60189
Age 16
Grade 11
Music Director: Krista Halvorson

Enrique Garcia
Lincoln High School
4777 Imperial Avenue
San Diego, CA 92113
Age 17
Grade 11
Music Director: Deborah Nevin

Jonathan Ho
Andrew High School
3200 Senter Road
San Jose, CA 95121
Age 17
Grade 12
Music Director: Tom Eschenfelder

Alexis Sell
Pulaski Middle School
911 South St. Augustine Street
Pulaski, WI 54162
Age 14
Grade 8
Music Director: Timothy Kolovsky

Paola Bataresh
School No. 1
32 Stevens Avenue
Little Falls, NJ 07424
Age 12
Grade 7
Music Director: Jonathan Kruzel

Steven Gonzalez
Michael Fossum Middle School
7800 North Ware Road
McAllen, TX 78504
Age 13
Grade 8
Music Director: Robert Hochstetler

Ashleigh Cox
Five Forks Middle School
3250 River Drive
Lawrenceville, GA 30044
Age 14
Grade 8
Music Director: Joe Bader

Gavin Scott
Glasgow Middle School
4101 Fairfax Parkway
Alexandria, VA 22312
Age 12
Grade 7
Music Director: Lynette Blacksten

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