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CONGRATULATIONS to the 2020 SBO Essay Scholarship winners, their teachers and winning school programs! This year’s theme was “How does your musical instrument match your personality…?” We are grateful to the many thousands of students and school programs that participated along with our co-sponsors who have supported the SBO scholarship program for the past 20 years! The winning essays will be posted at a later date.

SBO 2020 Essay Contest Winners

Grades 4 – 8

Sara Pearl Adler
Grade 8
Age 13
Pine Crest School
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33334

The challenge of being small is that sometimes people underestimate you.

The advantage of being small is that people sometimes underestimate you.

Much like a non-musician’s first glimpse of a viola, many people jump to the wrong conclusions when they first meet me. Although I do not take up too much space, I have the tenacity of a thousand girls my age. I love to play the viola because it looks like a common violin, but the sound surprises many. Most people assume that the small wooden instrument on my shoulder is a high-pitched violin, but in reality, it is a powerful and deep instrument that sounds more like its far larger cousin, the cello.

When part of my school’s orchestra, the violins usually receive the starring role. I like the viola because it’s sound is essential without it needed to be in the spotlight. For example, I am the Vice President of my school’s orchestra. While the violin playing President gives the speeches and gets the recognition at concerts, I quietly organize, manage and support the group, making sure that we perform as a unit and with the best sound possible. Recently, I started a musical group at my house of worship. Without taking any credit, I recruit new members, coordinate the music with the clergy, and provide support to my fellow musicians. My power is in what people hear, but also in what they see.

Never underestimate the little girl, she might be the one pulling at the strings!


Adison Coleman
Grade 8
Age 14
Zionsville West Middle School
Whitestown, IN 46075

When I am sad, how does my flute know to play low and soft? When I’m happy, how does my flute know to play fast and upbeat? My flute knows how I feel even before I even touch the pad or my fingers to the keys. Just like how I know when to ask my friends why they are sad, or when I know something is wrong with my friend if she asks a certain way or answers me, “I’m fine.”

My flute knows when I am great or feeling low. My flute is shy, concealed by the rest of the band, to the point you can’t even hear her. Until you get to know her higher octave G! My flute becomes fun and kind of obnoxious! Any friends of mine will tell you that when they get to know me. I became fun and crazy, too! But when I am around adults, I’m shy and respectable.

My flute is graceful and elegant in some songs, but people can play her like she should be played in folk music! I can be very different around adults. Some may even say uptight. But when I am around my friends and family, I become myself and become the happiest, smiley, person alive!

My flute has an enormous connection with people when playing softer, slower songs. My friends have always said !’m the “mom” of my friends. My flute is my empathetic connection to my heart.

My flute and I are practically the same.


Hazel Edwards
Grade 7
Age 12
Clear Springs Middle School
Clear Springs, MD 21722

My name is Hazel Edwards and I play the trombone at Clear Springs Middle School. The French word for “paperclip” is “trombone.” A paper clip (or trombone) holds everything together and makes sure nothing gets lost. I am a person who is a good friend and naturally pulls people together, just like a paper clip/trombone. In the same way, playing an instrument brings people together in a never ending bond where no one is left out. This is very similar to my personality, I am gregarious and enjoy being around people, socializing and making friends. This is important because everyone deserves to have a friend and belong. We shouldn’t allow others to slip away. The paperclip/trombone does just that. I believe we can all learn a lesson from the paperclip/trombone. We need to welcome others and make others feel that they are loved. My personality is caring and friendly. I bring people together for the good, just like the paper clip (trombone) holds things together so that nothing slips away unloved.


Arlie Sweigart
Grade 5
Age 11
Sycamore School
Indianapolis, IN 46260

Unique. Friendly. Warm. Energetic. Loud. Excited. Mellow. Distant. Clear. You can hear them in a horn. You can hear them in me. Like mood swings that can overtake a moment. A person, an audience. A world. Double horn, double sides, many sides to a person. An instrument. Me.

The parts that horns have in music is special. Sometimes we maintain the beat, like clocks, out steady tick keeping everyone on time. Sometimes we become the melody, the ones who are in the spotlight. The ones that build the song. I have varied parts too, like characters in a play. Sometimes I’m like the melody, the star student, the key player. I’m also the accompaniment, the part that’s needed, but not focused on all the time.

Woodwinds. The horn of the high notes. Brass. The shout of music, clear as a cloudless sky. We French horns can feel it all. The ones who can join the thrills of flutes. The sonatas of tubas, with chords you can feel the heartbeat. I’m friends with them all. The leaders, the creators, the comedians. I can fit in.

Accents. Flats. Sharps. Staccato. Legato. Whole. Quarter. Half. The variables needed for one pitch. You make a mistake. You go on. Life is like that too. The everlasting song. Twists and turns along the road. Perseverance. Dedication. Hard work. I need it all to play the French horn. I need it all to succeed. The French horn is the perfect instrument for me.


Corbin Tenney
Grade 7
Age 13
Dock Mennonite Academy EC-8 Campus
Souderton, PA 18964

Matching With A Bass Clarinet

Pushing down the buttons to play C, then an F.
Always reading my music and playing in the treble clef.
Making sure that I don’t mess up a measure,
And when I do, next time I will try to play better.

My instrument and I have a lot of things in common,
Together we do some jamming and some rockin’,
We always try our hardest and do our very best,
To pay attention in measures when there are any rests.

Me and my instrument like to push all the buttons,

Some days, we just lie on cushions and do nothin’,
On my player, we listen to a Compact Disk track,
And when I made a lot of loud noise, I squeak and have a voice crack.

First before we play, we spend time to warm up,
Then we use music we play to cheer the grownups.
While I play, I make sure I don’t miss a note,
I always make sure I have enough moisture in my throat.

My instrument and I really like to read,
We make sure we play everything we need.
I also like to make a lot of noise,
While playing in the band with all the girls and boys.

When we work together we really make some great sounds,
Everyone is staring in amazement all around.
All the band members work together to make music in reality.
And that is the way how my instrument matches my personality.


Grades 9 -12

Jacie Gray
Grade 11
Age 17
Scurry Rosser ISD
Scurry, TX 75158

I’d never given much thought to how my personality matches my oboe until now. Our similarities are surprising. My dad jokingly says we are both fickle and temperamental.

The oboe is a fairly uncommon instrument that may not be the most popular instrument, but commands attention and leadership when played correctly. As a drum major and section leader, we share these same qualities.

One has to work hard to play the oboe well. In turn, I am also a hard worker not only with my private lessons, but with school and extracurricular activities.

Just like the oboe, I have my fair share of good and bad days. A sudden change in humidity can be bad not only for oboes, but for hair as well. One just hopes the weather stays constant during auditions for both of us.

My oboe teacher continually emphasizes detail, detail, detail from initial tones to following dynamics in music. The notes may come from the oboe, but the feeling and personality of the song comes from me. When it all finally comes together, and the show is over, I want the audience to feel the music the way I did.

I’ve been told that the oboe is a challenging instrument to play. To my knowledge, my small rural Texas school has never had an oboe in their band. I am the first to take up this challenge. The oboe has allowed me to use my pioneering personality at my school and choose the path less traveled.


Amy Huynh
Grade 12
Age 17
Valley High School
West Des Moines, IA 50266

I am on the side away from the crowd
And I am definitely not loud.
I’m the support and warmth.
I like to sit quietly absorbed in the flow and conversation
I don’t usually have the spotlight
But as a whole, I connect and unite.
I’m similar but unique compared to my brothers and sisters
My sister flaunts and has fire
But I am calm and have a small desire
To have a solo once and only once.
Plus I am relaxed and good listener.
There can often be misconceptions of me
Where I might be ridiculed for my soul and key.
Alto clef and laid backness define me.
I don’t yearn to lead but to be in the middle path.
My sound and style is different from my brassy sister and sonorous brothers

C is for clear
G is for gracious
D is for distinctive
A is for austere

I don’t always show my feelings but when I do
My emotions, thoughts and sounds hypnotize.

I am the viola.


Katherine Ngo
Grade 12
Age 17
Walnut High School
Walnut CA 91789

Entering into a competitive music program, I was determined to set myself apart by playing an instrument that no one, not even my band director, could recommend for me. The tuba fit my criteria perfectly. I am 5’3” (160 cm) female with severe asthma. While my height and health condition may not seem short or even worth considering to some, it is definitely noticeable when most of the section is at least six feet tall and actively participate in an athletic sports program. Being the shortest and one of the few female tuba players has taught me that size does not determine one’s capability to play an instrument. When I first chose to play the tuba, I was told that my stature- and unfortunately small lung capacity- would prevent me from physically managing the instrument. However, I persevered through hours of weight training and breathing exercises to prove that despite my size, I am capable of handling the largest and lowest of the wind instruments. For those reasons, I attribute my choice of instrument to my open-mindedness, persistence and uniqueness. It is due to my willingness to try any instrument and determination to disprove stereotypes of what a typical tuba player should be that I became a tuba player in the first place. My unorthodox situation contributes to my individuality and in turn has made the person I am today.


Brennan Santa
Grade 12
Age 17
Pickerington High School North
Pickerington, OH 43147-7811

My violin and I respond similarly to confidence. For example, when we are uncertain, we both squeak. On the other hand, when we are without fear, we become steady and loud. Furthermore, when I play with enthusiasm, my violin sings with an excitement that parallels mine. She can sing quickly, in fast-paced joy, or slowly, to depict my mellow mood. For any emotion I feel, there is a sound from my violin to match it. We are the perfect team with a deep connection and understanding of each other. My violin and I also match in appearance. She is speckled with little dots from where her pain finish has chipped off. These chips look like the many freckles lining my arms and my face. Though my violin is getting older, she is still a stunning piece of equipment. This reminds me that imperfections do not hinder beauty- rather- , they enhance it. Finally, my violin and I are alike because we both have our own unique life story. My violin was passed down to me from my grandmother. She purchased it from a thrift shop in her youth; therefore my violin has had previous owners and experiences. She has a story that is all her own. My violin matches my personality because both are complicated. We have identities that cannot be described in a single word.


Karmyn Shreeve
Grade 12
Age 18
Algonquin Regional High School
Northborough, MA 01532

The upright bass stands firm and tall,
Just like me, though I may be small.
I’m sturdy with me feet on the ground
And music to your ears will be my sound.
My song of determination sings, a sweet low
That comes from the E string when marked with my bow.
The quality of perseverance is found in me,
Impossible to ignore, played on the highest and loudest string of G.
I am not easy to break, for that you’d have to really try.
And even then I’ll stand solidified.
For nothing can prevent me from singing my song.
Just like the bass, I carry on headstrong.
Though my appearance might seem to be roughed up on the sides,
I’ll still produce a song that brings tears to your eyes.
I stay true to myself, as does the bass,
The most reliable instrument, impossible to misplace.
I’ll work to know end to finish my song,
One to which all will be singing along.
The upright is heavyweight and though I am light,
I carry on through my days with just as much might.


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