6 Band Essay Contest

Excerpts from 2014 MLK Essay Winners

This essay was read from the podium as it was written by a member of the MLK Committee and could not be given a monetary prize. Alex Lleras January 2014 MLK Essay, Downing Middle School:

"Due to Dr. King the flame of racism is all but extinguished and the children of this age have accepted the colors of all races. However, the embers are still smoldering and smog hazes the vision of a few who cling to racism like a Teddy Bear. Dr. King has taken their guns but has yet to change their minds. We need is a cleansing rain that will heal even the most ravaged minds in our nation. Flood the plains of discrimination and shower the land with an encouraging mantra that will bring together the broken pieces: Embrace Our Diversity! May this ring true to everyone not just in America but the entire world!" 

Grade 4:

1st: Sarah Mullens, Heritage ES, Ms. Buchanan: “I cannot even begin to imagine living in the America that once existed! Not being able to go to the same schools, ride the same buses, or drink out of the same fountains… I am thankful to be living in America today! ” 

2nd: Zane Hicke, Prairie Trail ES, Ms. Kelley : “I want to ride the same bus as everyone else, swim in the same pool, and use the same restrooms even though I am mixed. I choose to embrace me!”

 3rd: Iris Lim, Hebron Valley ES, Ms. Rehfuss: “While I was writing this essay, I realized that while I was born in the United States, I have a different skin color. If dr. king didn’t exist, I cannot imagine how hard it would be for me to live here. He helped a lot of people.”

Grade 5:

1st: Tyler Neumann, Prairie Trail ES, Mr. Clayton

“Dr. King believed that love through non-violence can concur all. He believed it so much that he went to jail for it. I am proud to celebrate him today because he let all people help and join hands to make this country better.”

2nd: Josiah Bradley, Valley Ridge ES, Mrs. Rowell 

“Dr. King believed in non-violence no matter what you did or what color you are… I love playing football. Many different people come to play. We are all different but in the game we are all the same. Football is a way for me to live out Dr. king’s dream.”

 3rd: Emily Reynolds, Prairie Trail ES, Mr. Clayton

“Dr. King’s persistence and determination has inspired me to stand against bullies. By standing up for myself and others, I can help embrace and protect diversity around me.”

Grade 6:

1st: Tatum Green, Downing MS, Ms. Clements

“every person is a blank canvas. Races and cultures add color and character to the canvas. The result is a masterpiece where every feature has an important value. Dr. King tried to apply this idea to the nation and knew that to embrace every feature of the masterpiece of nation, diversity not only has to be accepted but celebrated. He encouraged people of all races and differences to unite and create a masterpiece for the future. ”

(Tie) 2nd: Kira Koh, Downing MS, Ms. Rodriguez

“One way to embrace diversity is to accept that is everyone is different and no two people are the same. A common difference is religious belief. Instead of discriminating, we should try to learn about other religions and understand others’ beliefs. Accepting different appearances is another way we can embrace diversity… The final way to embrace diversity is by taking a stand against bullying…”

(Tie) 2nd: Mariah Wheeler, Lamar MS, Mrs. Robertson

“Dr. King taught us to embrace and cherish our diversity and differences that we cannot help having. Embrace our diversity, use it to make good in the world, like Dr. King. ”

(Tie) 3rd: Ryan Morris, Hedrick MS, Mrs. Hicks

“Once there was a family who had a daughter born in 1950. Her dad was a teacher at an African-American school and was very upset about the condition of those schools… One night, they were watching the news on their fuzzy black and white TV and they heard about a man, Dr. King, who was leading a civil rights movement. The family was excited to do their part in helping the movement. Even though the family faced many trials, their hard work paid off . They and many other families were now free. Sadly, in the process, dr. king lost his life. ”

(Tie) 3rd: Sydney Neuman, Hedrick MS, Ms. Winterroth 

“Embracing diversity means that we’re happy to have different people and things in the world… It’s always important to be helpful and respectful of all kinds of people.”

(Tie) 3rd: Olivia Oomen, Lamar MS, Mrs. Robertson

“If we create an uncomfortable atmosphere because of hatred then it would be very challenging for our nation to progress… Loving our differences will help to create happiness throughout our lives because it would help us be more independent and not always go with the majority.”

Grade 7:

(Tie) 1st: Emily Martinez, DeLay MS, Mrs. B. Williams 

“Diversity is beauty. The problem is that people don’t see the beauty that is diversity… The world is filled with experiences from each different face that you meet. Everyone has some talent and something to add to our lives. After all, our world is like a bag of Trail Mix. Some people may be sweet and small like M&Ms, others may be tough to crack like a nut, and some may be fun to have like a pretzel...”

(Tie) 1st: Zelda Mutoke, DeLay MS, Mrs. J. Johnson

“Have you ever looked at a painting and it’s all shades of gray? One color throughout the whole painting! You’re looking at it like ‘’this needs more color. This is boring!” This would be like to go to a school that all students and teachers were the same race, ate the same food, spoke the same language, same everything. Then you go to high school and you see all different races and colors and foods and personalities you don’t like it. In other words, you were living in a little model of segregation… In today’s world we often get segregated by our neighborhoods. There are even cities with their own race name like China Town. Dr. king’s dream has nearly been fulfilled but not entirely.  

(Tie) 2nd: Kiya Brown, DeLay MS, Mrs. B. Williams

“When you think about it, it is like a mother. Whatever you do – good or bad- mothers will still love you. That’s what people should strive to mimic every day… The assumptions people make based on nothing but fear are how discrimination starts. We cannot allow our lives to be based on poor assumptions.” 

(Tie) 2nd: Callie Goetz, Downing MS, Mrs. Fields

“We were made to be original. We were made to be unique. We were made to be different. Why is it so hard to embrace our diversity if this how we were made? Dr. King was one of the first to publicly deviate from the lies our world was trying to proclaim at that time. ”

(Tie) 2nd: Yesenia Mortero, DeLay MS, Mrs. B. Williams 

“Let’s face it. People may know your name and how you appear but they don’t know your story. The story is important. By learning other people’s stories, you also learn their commonalities. This is how embracing diversity brings us closer.”

(Tie) 3rd: Calvin Clement, Hedrick MS, Mrs. Maimone

“In reality, we are all the same inside. Making fun of someone is like insulting ourselves... Now, we can live together and make new friends and learn about them. That’s what makes our country great. ”

(Tie) 3rd: Nikita Jacob, Shadow Ridge MS, Mrs. Mosher

“Did you know that the health of a pond ecosystem is determined by counting the different number of species that live in it? The more variety, the healthier the pond! Embracing the world’s diversity is about all kinds of people getting along and working together. It’s about not caring whether you’re rich or poor, young or old, or short or tall.”

(Tie) 3rd: Yulyana Clemente, Hedrick MS, Ms. Winterroth

Dr. King had faith that people would realize that they all matter not by their skin but they matter for what’s in their hearts.

Grade 8:

1st: Zoe Rodriguez, Downing MS, Mrs. Lentz -- “…society should embrace people’s differences and find ways of weaving together their uniqueness to form a strong beautiful tapestry. In this way, people can finally banish the bitter hatred from their souls and replace it with tender empathy.”

2nd: Zoe Bixler, Shadow Ridge MS, Mrs. St. John -- “The world is not a perfect place and probably never will be. We can at least try to make it perfect by not only accepting ourselves but by embracing our diversities.”

2nd: Kelsey Sullivan, Downing MS, Mrs. Lentz -- “I hope that one day the future generations of the world can live in a discrimination-free environment; one where they are accepted as who they are and people are okay with that, one where people will embrace their diversity instead of rejecting it. ”

3rd: Maleeha Ahmad, Killian MS, Mr. Fletcher -- “By refusing to alienate, we can avoid the darkness Dr. King fought to eliminate… It is necessary to embrace our diversity; it is the key to opening the gateway of freedom and moving toward ‘The Dream’’. ”

3rd: Lindsey Golden, Huffines MS, Mrs. Hadley -- “ He (Dr. King) was the voice for those who were frightened to have one. He was the voice for the generations to come… There is diversity all around me. If it wasn’t for him I might not have gotten to see the outrageous laughs of the ones I love that light up my world. ”

3rd: Brian Tamayo, Hedrick MS, Ms. Winterroth --- “We need a new Dr. King to be part of an “I Dream of Diversity ” speech in the future. Without diversity, the world will be a nightmare filled with fights, wars, and crime. If we embrace diversity the world will be peaceful.”

Grade 9:

1st: Dexter Jones , MHS 9th, in honor of Mrs. Rebecca Wilson 

“These are not just some random people. These are my boys, my pack, my clique, these are my teammates. These teammates of mine are of different kinds of races including Hispanic, Asian, black, Native-American, and white. I said earlier that we did everything together. That’s how I feel about embracing our diversity. We help each other out and find a way to do it, together.”

Grade 10:

1st: Jovesh Zachariah, Hebron HS , Mr. -

“The distinctive array of contrasting characteristics that mold a person’s authentic identity, whether skin pigmentation or various cultural attributes, is what gives every single human a distinctive flavor duplicable by no other.”

2nd: Bumhee Kim, FMHS, Mrs. Knowles 

“In addition, we think that people are treating each other equally but are we really? If only everyone would reflect on their treatment towards others, there would be a society which Dr. King would’ve embraced. Not only do we have to embrace the diversities for African-Americans but also towards everyone we encounter in society.”

3rd: Hannah Miller, FMHS, Mrs. Crabtree 

“As for the entirety of the world, diversity continues to fuel the successes that occur every day. The world is becoming interconnected now more than ever so embracing people’s differences and unique traits is the best way to move forward.”

Grade 11:

1st: Kourtney Foster, Hebron HS , Ms. Mayo 

“The key to embracing one another starts with empathy. In Kindergarten, we learned “to treat others the way you want to be treated.” In elementary school, no one had harmed our trail of thought, no one had told us about a traumatic history that could change our view of our best friend.”

2nd: Hector Hernandez, Hebron HS, Mr. Stroud

“Trade and commerce embodied the primary form of interaction with diversity. Where there was trade, culture followed. Acculturation and globalization are not 20th century phenomena… Dr. King’s success as leader in the civil rights movement catalyzed social reform, advanced legal milestones, and sparked public support from all demographics.”

2nd: Wesley Jones, MHS, Mrs. McKenelly 

“Each and every day, the sport of Football provides all with a deep seated brotherhood whose grasp surpasses that of any prejudice one might hold in their heart…Embracing our diversity is not about simply tolerating others’ beliefs but learning to respect them.”

3rd: Victoria Davis, TCHS, Mr. Blodgett

“Dr. King believed in the ideal of non-violence, that a non-violent person has control of himself spiritually, mentally, and emotionally... We are a people of many cultures, of many backgrounds, and many histories. We come from all over the world and we embrace it.”

3rd: Melani Shi, FMHS, Mrs. McMichael

“Moreover, appreciation of diversity metaphysically circles back to self-dignity: in order to acknowledge the worth of others and the benefits they bestow upon our lives by living their on idiosyncratic lives, we must carry true self-respect. Embracing others has the prerequisite of loving ourselves enough to extend that love to the diversity around us.”

Grade 12:

1st: Farhan Ahmad, Hebron HS, Mr. Shelton

“Dr. King envisioned that his fight would culminate in a nation that embraces – rather than suppresses- its diversity… We must realize that Dr. King sowed the seeds for equality and it’s our duty as the next generation to bring that idea to fruition. ” 

2nd: Lakshmi Menon, FMHS, Mrs. McMichael 

“As I look out the window of my room I see children jumping into a pile of vibrant leaves. Flashes of green, yellow, and red fly through the air like confetti. Different ages and races are mixed in a boisterous group as black hands clasp white ones, a stunningly beautiful contrast. ”

3rd: Kristen Brehm, FMHS, Mr. Kenny

“I am thankful that God filled the world with a people who would lead black society to freedom. It is unbelievable to me that the world could have treated God’s children in such a way... Dr. King maintained a Ghandi-like perspective refusing to give society a dose of its own medicine but instead a dose of the forgiving, loving attitude he was fighting for. ”

We will do well to listen to what teens tell us about music as a common need and a constant presence in their lives. Music is their social glue – a bridge for building acceptance and tolerance for people of different ages and cultural circumstances. –- Patricia Shehan Campbell, Ph.D., NAMM Foundation “Sounds of Learning” research study, 2008

Each year, School Band & Orchestra Magazine conducts a nationwide essay contest for 4th – 12th grade students. Ten students reflected on the 2011 Essay Question:

“How my music teacher has influenced me and my goals in school….”

Music is essential to a complete education, and music teachers show their students that long hours of practice pay off in skills mastery and pride of accomplishment. Studying music teaches children how to face challenges head-on, builds confidence and helps them achieve academic success. And, playing music offers teens joy and respite from difficult life situations.

Students Say: My Music Teacher Encouraged Me and Built My Self-Esteem

Since 2000, under the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), educators have recognized the value of art for its own sake. They also acknowledge that arts activities can “enhance children’s self-awareness, self-confidence, and acceptance of others” and can further motivate youngsters, especially those at risk or with learning disabilities, to stay in school.

These students agree:

“My music teachers have taught me that my disability doesn’t matter – only my ability does. I am autistic and . . . they value my perfect pitch, good rhythm, solid percussion technique, and ability to help an ensemble sound great. . . this year I even won 2nd place on timpani statewide. . . Music is how I connect with the world; it’s how I express myself. I now want to major in music performance in college because of the opportunities given to me.” (Ryan, 17, Washington)

“(My band teacher, Mr. Darrell Benjamin, has always given me) upbeat support . . . His encouragements have motivated me to practice more and make progress every day in music, as well as in all my academic subjects. My hard work paid off when I was able to move up to advanced band . . . Mr. B. has reinforced what my parents have always told me to do, which is to put education first, do my very best to hit high notes in my academic studies.” (Widchard, 11, Pennsylvania)

Students Say: My Music Teacher Motivated Me to Excel in All My Subjects

According to a 2006 report by the College Entrance Examination Board, “students of music continue to outperform their non-arts peers on the SAT.”

The experience of these students supports the research:

“My music teacher, Mrs. Zebley) . . . told our class, ‘you are only as good as you want to be, if you practice honestly you will only get better, and maybe even become perfect at some things.’ I ran with this encouragement . . . (and) applied her theory to other subjects. As my ability to play the oboe amplified so did my grades in other classes . . . (and) I found myself with straight “A’s” in all areas. This was a first for me.” (Haunnah, 12, Florida)

“(My music teacher Mr. Berdahl said), ‘Perfection is expected, but excellence is accepted.’ This taught me never to settle for mediocrity, to always strive for the best. With his words of advice in mind, I have since become first chair euphonium in the school’s symphonic band and lead trombone in the school’s top jazz band. Also, I have found myself applying his advice to my academics . . . He has pushed me to become the best student, the best musician, and the best person I can be.” (Caleb, 17, Montana)

Students Say: My Music Teacher Taught Me About Leadership, Teamwork and Self-Discipline

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) defines the arts as a core subject, and the arts play a significant role in children’s development and learning process. The arts can help students become tenacious, team-oriented problem solvers who are confident and able to think creatively. –- U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, 2009

To thrive in the 21st century, our future leaders will need strong character and a diversity of skills. These students are well on their way to becoming responsible world citizens:

“(My music teacher, Mr. Seckla) helped me reach the goal of learning how to play the flute by stressing the importance of practicing to reach your goals . . . After every concert, I feel pride swelling inside me and . . . it reminds me of one of the most significant qualities of playing music: teamwork.” (Emily, 14, New Hampshire)

“(Mr. McHenry, my new band director) never made me feel inferior for not remembering how to play, but instead gave me just the push I needed to achieve my goal. I look upon his example of leadership to know how to lead. He has helped me to become the player that I am today and placed one ultimate goal in my sight: fulfilling the potential that he so often reminds me that I possess.” (Sarah, 17, Tennessee)

“(My band director, Ms. Shemeka Nash) reminds me that I can achieve my goals and that I can make a difference . . . She always encourages me to study in all of my classes. She encourages me to practice so that I am a well-rounded student. Ms. Nash consistently reinforces . . . that WE CAN achieve our goals, we can be productive citizens, we can live good lives and be proud of our accomplishments.” (Adam, 18, Illinois)

Students Say: My Music Teacher Showed Me That Music is Fun, Inspiring and Comforting in Times of Adversity

Studying music and the arts elevates children’s education, expands students’ horizons, and teaches them to appreciate the wonder of life. -– U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, July 1999

Learning to “roll with the punches” and improvise is both a musical and a life skill. Teaching students how to use music to help meet challenges and gain enjoyment has long-lasting impact:

“My teacher, Mr. Scott Backus . . . (is) easy to talk to and is understanding. Most of all, he makes music fun to learn. Mr. Backus’s love for music has influenced me to become a better student and person . . . Mr. Backus has taught me to be prepared with my instrument and music and most importantly with a smile on my face and a positive attitude. I realize music helps us relax and forget about our problems . . . I know I can accomplish anything with hard work, dedication, and practice.” (Briannah, 12, Washington)

“(My high school band teacher, Mr. Ned Smith) . . . constantly demonstrated a pure sense of respect and sensitivity towards music . . . (and) instilled a deep appreciation for the power and beauty of music in all his students. Never before had I recognized the comfort, healing and hope that could be offered through music . . . My love for music has strengthened each year of high school because of Mr. Smith. (Valerie, 17, Connecticut)

And, one very special teacher, who passed away from cancer last year, left his students with an enduring legacy:

“(My band and jazz band teacher Mr. Paul Isaacs) . . . taught me that I could succeed even in a daunting and scary environment if I just practiced and played my heart out. Now, only a year later, I’m playing solos in front of the entire school . . . He taught us to love life no matter what it throws at us, and he always wanted to be teaching us, even at the peak of his illness . . .No storm ever shook that calm, and he never stopped singing. Because of him, neither will I.” (Alex, 13, Minnesota)

Pass It Forward: Be an Advocate for Music Education!

If you are a music teacher, you are on the frontline of advocacy efforts to keep your school’s music programs strong and visible. Teachers, students, parents and other community members can all work together to make a difference:

1. Share these essays in their entirety with parents, students, school board members, school administrators, elected officials, music retailers, and community leaders.
2. Use resources to build a strong music education coalition in your school district; put the SupportMusic Community Action Kit to work today!
3. Write a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper about why music education must be part of a well-rounded curriculum.
4. Post a link to www.SupportMusic.com on your website & social media (ie, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to build awareness.
5. “Like” the SupportMusic Facebook page and post news about your school music program and your community.
6. Encourage students to attend school board meetings to speak about how music education impacts their lives.
7. NOW MORE THAN EVER….raise your voice about the importance of music education for every child!

Read School Band and Orchestra’s winning student essays – and get information about the 2012 essay contest (beginning September 1, 2011) – at www.sbomagazine.com

-- Debra Bresnan is a communications consultant for SupportMusic.com. She produces web content, newsletters and other written materials for businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals. Contact: dbresnan@hvc.rr.com

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