Every year, the National Parent and Teachers Association (PTA) hosts a creative competition for all students enrolled in public primary and secondary schools. The PTA Reflection Program, with a different theme each year, encourages young people to appreciate the oftentimes overlooked virtues of society and nature while motivating them to explore artistic talents. The competition calls for entries in six categories, respectively dance choreography, music composition, photography, visual arts, literature, and film. Submissions are further divided according to contestant’s age. With forty-four years of history, the PTA reflections program has become one of the most highly-regarded communication-arts contests in the nation. Awards of excellence are adjudicated on school, county, state, and national levels, with only the topmost-ranked entries advancing to the next round.
This year, the reflection theme is “Magic of a Moment,” an idea proposed by Kate Eldredge of Braun Station Elementary PTA located in San Antonio, Texas.
Savannah Du, a rising senior at Richard Montgomery High School, received an ‘outstanding interpretation of theme’ award for her music composition from the National PTA, after championing in the county and state competitions. Among several thousands of contestants around the nation, only seven will be given this honor.
Savannah’s composition is titled ‘Daybreak Over a Pond.’
“Every morning, I pass by a little pond on my way to the bus stop. During the beginning of the school year, it’s really bright outside. But as we get closer to winter, the sun’s position in the sky gets progressively lower. So there are a few days every year when the sun is at the perfect position right over the horizon, and I can a beautiful rainbow sunrise in the pond. Those days are my “magical moments.”
Savannah encapsulates her sentiment towards the miracles of life in piano composition. “Sometimes, I get up early in the morning and wait for the sun to rise. Most days, the sky is cloudy grey, the water still and unclear, the sun hidden from view, and I walk home cold and disappointed. But once in a while, the sky is deep maroon, the water hits the shore in ripples, and ducks dance across the surface of the pond. And when the first light of the sun rests upon my face, there are no sounds to describe the warmth of the magical moment of sunrise.”
Savannah first began composing as a rising freshmen in the International Baccalaureate Program at Richard Montgomery High School. However, she has had rigorous piano practices many years before. When asked about memories of piano lessons at an early age, Savannah playfully recalled her initial dislike for practicing. However, soon she began appreciating, and eventually finding music as a sanctuary.
“Music is a stress relief for me. Being able to sit down at the piano and just create something completely original is what I love the most.”
Savannah expresses that the Reflections program taught her what it means to create music. While composing this winning piece, Savannah was able to pour her emotions amassed over the years, whether by the piano bench or near the pond, into the few pages of notes and staff.
The winning composer believes that the music programs at MCPS , spanning from general music to chorus, boosted her appreciation for this art.
“Can’t forget the recorder class.” Says Savannah, “I think that (the recorder) might have been one of the first times I started to really enjoy music, because it was with a group of classmates and friends, without the stress of private lessons and having to work super hard.”
In her opinion, MCPS programs emphasize the “fun” and “joy” aspects of music. While becoming “pro” in music can be stressful, MCPS encourage students to sit back and remember the reasons they started up with music in the first place.
Savannah’s work will be prominently displayed in the US Department of Education next January.
Three other MCPS students were given National Awards of Excellence for their work. Petrina Steimel, a first grader at Maryvale Elementary School, was honored for musical composition; Ariana Yeatts-Lonske, a senior at Thomas S. Wootton High School was recognized for literature, and Shirin Ghorbani, a first grader at Potomac Elementary School, was honored for literature as well [MCPS Bulletin].
The theme for 2013~2014 school year is Believe, Dream, Inspire, submissions within Montgomery County Public Schools will begin in the fall.