Music Student Essay Contest

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 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

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

What is Berklee Online?

Berklee Online is the online school of Berklee College of Music, delivering access to Berklee’s acclaimed curriculum from anywhere in the world. We are the world’s largest online music school—30,000+ musicians from more than 140 countries have taken our courses—but classes never have more than 20 students per section.

Who is Berklee Online designed for?

Our programs provide lifelong learning opportunities to people interested in music and working in the music industry. The courses range from beginner to advanced graduate level

What kind of subjects are taught?

Hundreds of study options are available in subjects including songwriting, music production, music business, music theory, guitar, voice, arranging, harmony, ear training, electronic music production, bass, keyboard, drums, contemporary writing, and more.

Do online students receive the benefits of an on-campus Berklee education?

Absolutely! Just like the students studying on Berklee’s campus, Berklee Online students receive instruction from the same world-renowned faculty, guidance from Berklee-trained academic advisors, and the opportunity to walk at Commencement.

What is the process to apply for/enroll in a Berklee Online program or course?

Certificate programs and online courses are offered on an open enrollment basis. Simply complete the online enrollment form and provide payment prior to the course start date and you’re ready to go! Degree programs require an application and supporting documentation. See the Admission Requirements for more details.

Will I receive a Berklee ID and/or email address?

Berklee Online degree students are eligible to request a Berklee ID. Upon acceptance into the program, degree students are also given a email address.

Can I take non-credit courses in a certificate?

All courses in a certificate program must be taken for credit.

Can I waive some for-credit courses into a certificate?

Students must enroll in a certificate by paying the $175 certificate registration fee prior to completing the final course in the program. All for-credit courses that have been awarded a passing grade and that align with a certificate program may transfer into that program.

Can I upgrade from a lower-level certificate to a higher-level certificate?

Yes! Berklee Online offers two certificate options:
  1. CHANGE CERTIFICATE: When a student wants to change their lower-level certificate to a higher-level certificate (or vice versa) prior to the completion of the program. There are no additional fees for this option other than the cost of additional courses, and you will only earn one certificate upon completion.
  2. STARTING A NEW CERTIFICATE: When a student wants to earn more than one certificate by having the courses from their lower-level certificate waived into a higher-level certificate. In this case, an additional $175 registration fee is required.


Who teaches Berklee Online courses?

Berklee faculty and seasoned professionals teach our courses. Our instructors are recognized experts in their respective fields—they’ve produced and engineered hundreds of artists and numerous award-winning projects, and several of their students have gone on to earn GRAMMY Award nominations.

Financial Aid

Am I eligible for financial aid?

Financial assistance is available for Berklee Online degree programs. This assistance may come from a variety of sources including federal awards, outside scholarships, and private loans.

Federal financial aid is not available for non-degree programs. Non-degree students typically finance their costs out-of-pocket or with a private loan. Review our payment options.


What happens if I turn in my graduation application late? Do I still need to apply by December 1 even if I don’t want to walk in the Commencement ceremony?

Because we must coordinate with the Boston campus for Commencement, it is essential that students planning to walk in the ceremony submit their graduation application by 12:00 midnight ET on December 1. If you submit your application late, you will need to wait until the following year to walk.

We ask all students planning to graduate within the current academic year to apply for graduation by December 1, regardless of their plans to participate in Commencement. Late application for students who do not wish to walk will result in processing delays for your academic record and diploma, and your name may not be listed in the ceremony program.

What’s the difference between graduating and walking in Commencement?

Great question! Walking in Commencement and graduating are two separate things.

You can walk in Commencement when you are nine (9) credits or less away from completing your degree requirements by the end of the spring term. Please note: Berklee Online degree students are not required to walk in Commencement in Boston.

You graduate when you have met all of the following criteria:
  • Attained at least a 2.70 cumulative GPA in concentrate courses
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.00
  • Fulfilled all program requirements AND completed a minimum of 120 credits for a single major or 165 for a dual major
  • Completed a minimum of 60 institutional credits for a single major or 105 institutional credits for a dual major
  • Fulfilled all financial obligations to the college
Note Walking across the stage in Commencement does not mean that you have graduated. You will not officially graduate and receive your diploma until you meet all of the eligibility requirements.

I just finished my last term at Berklee Online! What happens next? Is there anything I need to do?

Congratulations on finishing! If you have already filled out a graduation application, you will want to double-check the "Graduation Checklist" to ensure you have taken care of all of the various items associated with graduating. If you have not filled out a graduation application, you will need to do that as soon as possible. You will not be able to graduate until we have received and processed your graduation application.

When will I get my diploma?

You will receive your diploma within 6-8 weeks of completing your degree requirements. Please keep in mind that instructors have up to two (2) weeks to submit final grades after the term concludes.

Diplomas are mailed to the address you include on your graduation application. If your mailing address changes after you have submitted your graduation application, be sure to update us at

Keep in mind that if you are walking in Commencement, you will not receive your official diploma at the ceremony.

Transfer Credits

Can I find out how many transfer credits I am eligible for before I apply to the degree program?

If you are interested in applying to the Bachelor of Professional Studies degree program and would like an estimate of the amount of transfer credit you would receive, you can request an unofficial transfer evaluation by emailing a copy of your transcript(s) to the Berklee Online Transfer Team at Be sure to include your name, major of interest, and any additional questions you may have. You can expect to receive your assessment within 7-10 business days.

I didn’t receive credit on my Official Evaluation for all of the courses that I thought I would. What should I do?

The earlier you contact us with questions or concerns regarding your evaluation, the easier it will be for us to address any issues. Therefore, it is very important when you first receive your official transfer evaluation that you review the information carefully.

If you notice a remaining requirement that you believe you’ve already fulfilled, first consult our document on Common Reasons Credit Does Not Transfer. It’s possible that the course you are thinking of didn’t meet our eligibility requirements.

If none of those exclusions apply, please fill out a Transfer Credit Equivalency Re-evaluation form for the courses you wish to have reconsidered.

Sometimes, we are not able to locate specific information for a course online and we are not able to determine an equivalency, but we are always happy to review additional material which will help us make that determination.

Do my Berklee Online, Berklee campus, or Prior Learning Credit coursework count towards the 60 transfer credit limit?

No, credits completed at Berklee or through the prior learning process do not count towards the 60 transfer credit limit. This maximum is for credit-bearing exams and undergraduate-level coursework completed externally.

What is a credit deficiency and why do I need to make up credit?

Credit deficiencies are caused by transferring a course that is less than three (3) credits to fulfill a three (3) credit Berklee Online requirement. Students with a credit deficiency will be short of the minimum number of credits required to graduate once they have completed their program requirements. In order to be eligible to graduate, you will need to make up the credits you are deficient in.

While the Transfer Team does their best to avoid giving students credit deficiencies, it is not always possible. You can make up the credits you are deficient in by completing additional Berklee Online coursework, by applying for prior learning credit, or by completing additional external coursework in the area in which you are deficient.

Note all external courses will first need to be approved by the Transfer Team.

Can transfer credit fulfill prerequisites?

It depends. Generally, transfer credit cannot be used to fulfill prerequisites unless we determine that the course you completed is a direct equivalent to one of the courses we offer at Berklee Online. Keep in mind that there are some courses which require you to pass a placement exam. For these you will need to achieve a passing grade on the test to fulfill the prerequisite, otherwise you will need to complete the appropriate Berklee Online course.

Can I transfer credits to Berklee Online after I have started the degree program?

Yes, you can. To determine if the coursework you already completed or are considering taking is eligible to fulfill your remaining degree requirements, contact the Transfer Team at

I am a Berklee campus student. Can I transfer courses from Berklee Online to my campus-based program?

View a list of transferable courses to Berklee’s campus programs.

For additional questions about transferring courses from Berklee Online to Berklee's campus programs please contact the campus transcript evaluator at

Are Berklee Online courses transferable to other institutions?

Berklee Online is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the same association that accredits our main campus and other leading academic institutions such as Harvard University and MIT. Our courses are transferable to other institutions, but it’s up to the receiving institution to decide the number and types of courses that may transfer. We recommend getting a course pre-approved by an institution before enrolling.


How do Berklee Online’s costs compare to other education options?

Berklee Online’s programs have a tuition cost that is approximately 64 percent less than on-campus tuition at Berklee’s Boston campus. Moreover, a recent study revealed that the average annual tuition at for-profit colleges is more than twice as expensive as Berklee Online. Even average annual tuition at other accredited non-profit online universities is roughly $11,000 more expensive than tuition for a year with Berklee Online!

How much does a certificate program cost?

There is a one time $175 registration fee per certificate program. Students may either pay per course term (at the $1,479 per credit course cost) or pay in full to receive a 10 percent discount. The registration fee and all courses for the term you wish to begin in must be paid in full in order to begin.

How much does an online bachelor’s degree cost?

Online undergraduate degree tuition is $59,160 for 120 credits for all majors except the guitar major. Tuition for the guitar major is $63,660. Students taking 10 courses per year can complete the degree in four years at a cost of $14,790 per year. (Note: Tuition and fees are subject to change.)

How much does an online master’s degree cost?

Online graduate degree tuition is $33,120 for 36 credits. The Master of Music in Music Production and Master of Arts in Music Business programs are designed to be completed in one year of study. Both programs are comprised of 12 three-credit courses that can be taken during four 12-week semesters.

What is included in the cost of a course?

The cost for an individual course includes the tuition fee. The cost of required books, hardware or software must be purchased separately, unless it is stated that these costs are included with your enrollment. Some courses may include additional fees for files or content.

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