We had 10 truly fantastic essays submitted to our first essay contest from students of all ages. The judging was very close! We are pleased to announce…
Second Runner Up:
Cathy Fodi (student of Ryan Kijanka)
First Runner Up:
Lydia Hamby (student of Frank Argento)
And, our Grand Prize Winner:
Harmony Redford (student of Gabrielle Tee)
Congratulations Harmony. And to everyone who participated – job well done!
Here is Harmony’s winning essay:
How Music Changed My Life
By Harmony Redford
When I was 11 years old, I was given a second hand keyboard and began taking piano lessons with Gabrielle Tee. At that age, I only listened to whatever was on the radio or what my parents put on at our house, and I couldn’t name more than two musicians that I liked. But I enjoyed the challenge of playing piano and spent hours practicing for my weekly lessons, so a few months later when Gabrielle told me about the upcoming recital, I decided to perform. It was probably the most terrifying thing I had ever done, but it felt so good to get up in front of people and share what I had been working on for weeks. At that same performance, I saw the ensembles perform for the first time, and I was intrigued. I didn’t even know that the school had different programs, or had groups like this at all but I wanted to give it a try, so at my next lesson I asked Gabrielle if I could join. It is true that being in an ensemble helped me learn to collaborate, and performing with the group increased my confidence, but more than that I was starting to understand music in a new way.
I remember one song in particular that they played; “Tear in my Heart” by Twenty One Pilots. I liked the song but I didn’t think much of it until a few months later when I was invited to see them live in concert. That concert changed my life and only increased my love for music. Seeing Tyler and Josh up there, jumping around the stage, playing their hearts out was inspiring, but even more inspiring than that was the faces of the people they were playing for. People were dancing, and crying, and for every single song, the entire crowd sang along. Seeing how much this band meant to people was amazing, that their music could bring together all these different people to share in an experience was unbelievable. They had created this community of love and support that I wanted so badly to be a part of.
I went home and immediately started learning how to play their songs on my piano, and just to imagine that I could come close to their level of musicality and skill pushed me forward. Because I became so obsessed with the band, my parents bought me a pair of drumsticks that had the drummer’s signature on them, and I had a random thought; I wanted to play the drums. I brought this idea to Gabrielle, and she scheduled a lesson, to see if I liked the drums and if I could learn them. Before the lesson she told me that I wouldn’t need a drum kit to practice on, since I was just beginning I could practice on a pile of books or some pillows for now. The first song she gave me was “Tear in my Heart” because she knew how much I loved it, and that it would be good to start on. She demonstrated how to play and then let me try, I sat down and played the whole song. After the lesson, she told my mom “sorry, you’re gonna have to buy her a drum set.”
Since I had started learning drums, Gabrielle told me there was no drummer in the high school band Vinyl Crossroads, and offered me the position. I had looked up to the girls in Vinyl Crossroads since I had started at AMS and even more after I joined the ensemble program, so getting a chance to play with them was unbelievable. I’ve learned so much from playing with them because they are all such talented musicians, and when this year is over, I’ll be the most senior member, which is crazy to think about. About a month ago, we got an opportunity to play a show bigger than any we’ve ever had. We got to open for Sarah McLachlan at the Cellular Center. They told us beforehand that we couldn’t play covers like we usually do. Instead, it had to be a set of all originals. So everyone who had an original song written brought it in at band practice, and we all got to work together on writing our parts and giving feedback to each other. It was a really powerful experience because it gave me a chance not only to write some original music, but to play it in front of other musicians my age and hear their thoughts. It was the most significant performance of my life so far and probably the most life-changing musical experience I’ve ever had. We had our own dressing room, there was a whole team of people sound checking us, and there was actual security between us and the audience. The actual performance was so much fun, and it was such an honor to play for such an awesome crowd, opening for an amazingly talented musician on a stage that literal legends have performed on. I can’t even adequately put into words how it felt to play that show, but the best way I can describe it is inspiring.
Music has changed my life in so many ways. It raised my confidence to a new level, it introduced me to some of my best friends, it gave me a way to deal with the biggest struggles in my life and a way to express everything I’m feeling, but most of all it’s given me a goal in life, something to motivate me. I want to play music for the rest of my life, and I want to continue to learn new instruments and new musical skills and knowledge, but I strive for even more than that. I want to make a career out of music. I want to write songs, release albums, go on tour, and jump around the stage like Twenty One Pilots. More importantly, I want to make a difference with my music; I don’t want to be a successful musician for the fame, it’s for the chance to inspire the people around me and make a positive change in the world. I believe that I can take my love for music, which started as extracurricular activity and turn it into a life. That, everything I have learned, everything I’ve experienced, and everything I’ve yet to learn, is how music has and will continue to, change my life.