In April, 21CM launched a contest for high school students. Inspired by the work of young leaders like Katie Prior, we wondered if we could identify other students who had decided to use their musical gifts for the purpose of doing good in their communities.
Partnering with Kendall Hunt Publishing Company, we offered three cash prizes for the winners’ organizations: $500 to first place, $300 to second place and $200 to third place. Additionally, the top 15 submissions receive a signed copy of Brian Horner’s “Living the Dream: The Morning After Music School.”
Now, we are proud to present the winners of our competition. These young musicians have shown their commitment to community service while demonstrating that they intend to use their music to make the world a better place. Congratulations to all!
XinYi (Cindy) Han and the Crescendo Project
Seventeen-year-old Cindy Han is the founder of the Crescendo Project, an organization that provides bi-weekly music workshops to children at migrant schools around Han’s home of Suzhou, China. Since its beginning in 2015, the Crescendo Project has recruited more than 40 volunteers, purchased 50 guitars, and brought music lessons to 68 children.
According to Cindy, the Crescendo Project is driven by the mission to “share the joy of music” and to help children to “build confidence, creativity and self-realization.” She describes how “many students, initially too shy to sing, perform in front of their peers at the end of the term. Our volunteers are inspired by [their] passion and perseverance.”
Zoe B.M. Zhang and Project Lights, Camera, Action
Sixteen-year-old Zoe Zhang of Houston, Texas is the founder of Project Lights, Camera, Action, an organization designed to bring arts and cultural education programs to indigenous Uighur children in Hotan, China. Zoe began her work last summer, when she traveled to Hotan as the first teenage ambassador from the China Children and Teenagers’ Foundation to teach classes through an interactive music program.
This past summer, Zoe returned to Hotan with 50 digital cameras in order to encourage her students to start documenting their lives through their own eyes. Zoe says that based on her own experience of “growing up in a rich performing and visual arts environment,” she knows “very well the profound capacity the arts have to bring others together.”
Annie Chen and Music Playathon
Seventeen-year-old Annie Chen along with her organizing partner Junhee Lee run Music Playathon in Iowa City, Iowa. Music Playathon is a biannual music showcase that raises money for the Iowa City Music Auxiliary, which continues to support school music programs whose funding has been cut.
Last year, Music Playathon raised about $4,000, which went towards travel expenses and purchasing sheet music. Annie says she intends to continue running Music Playathon, “and then pass on the leadership role to younger students so they can continue the tradition of celebrating arts in our community. Our mission is for all kids to be able to participate in music programs.”
You can watch Annie’s winning video pitch here.
Photo by Alyson Kuennen for West Side Story
HONORABLE MENTION: Aidan Peterson
Eleven-year-old Aidan Peterson is a volunteer bugler for organizations like Bugles Across America, Taps for Veterans and Youth Trumpet & Taps Corp. He uses his music for service by sounding Taps at military funerals, and he also volunteers to play the national anthem at sporting events.
Aidan is also active in advocating for music at the political level: He initiated Senate Bill 540, that “when passed, will give student musicians in Pennsylvania an excused absence from school to sound Taps at military funerals.”
You can watch Aidan’s winning video pitch here.