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Herriman Journal

Hopeful students have multiple chances to win Reflections contests

Oct 12, 2023 10:30AM ● By Jet Burnham

Isaac Turley celebrates his Music Composition Merit Award at the state Reflections award night held May 16, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Erin Turley.)

Each year, over 300,000 students across the nation enter the PTA Reflections contest to express themselves through dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography and visual arts.

Most Herriman area schools’ entry deadlines for the contest are in October.

Even though he is busy with schoolwork, clubs and teaching piano lessons, Mountain Ridge High School junior Isaac Turley has been thinking about what type of song he could compose for this year’s Reflections contest. His entry last year, a piano composition, won at the school, council and region levels, and earned a Music Composition Merit Award at state.

Turley, who has played the piano for about 10 years, often plays around with musical riffs, but the Reflections contest was the catalyst that encouraged him to write a complete song.

“I created this riff motif that I just loved, and when I saw the Reflections theme ‘Show Your Voice,’ I was thinking about the style of this really empowering motif that was rebellious and powerful, wanting to show what it's capable of in the music,” he said. “I wrote the song based off of that one little riff. I wrote a melody on top of that, then from there, I expanded it to a full song. I tried to have it tell a story, the way you write a book.”

Turley was one of 169 Utah students to receive an award at the state level last year.

The theme for this year’s contest is "I Am Hopeful Because. . ."

Utah PTA Reflections Specialist Rebekah Pitts said this is one of her favorite themes.

“I just love hope and I love hearing what other people hope for and seeing how positive kids can be about the future,” she said. “I can't wait to see why thousands of Utah children have hope. It's going to be amazing!”

Each year, the Reflections theme is chosen from ideas submitted by students. This year’s theme was submitted by Alice Meko from Hampton Cove Elementary in Alabama.

Twice in the last few years, the Reflections theme winner has been a student from Utah. "Look Within" was the 2019-20 theme suggested by a Utah kindergartener, and the 2021-22 theme "I Will Change the World By. . ." was suggested by Lydia Keel, an eighth grader from Spanish Fork Junior High.

Entries for the Choose the Theme Contest are due November 1.

Another contest, the Utah Reflections Theme Poster Contest, invites Utah students to submit artwork to be used on Reflections contest promotional posters. Poster designs for next year’s theme, “Accepting Imperfection,” are due March 1, 2024.

Pitts believes that the Reflections contest can have a huge impact on kids.

“You wouldn't think an art contest could change lives, but it does,” Pitts said. “Some children discover their future career through Reflections, others feel heard, some experience massive self-esteem boosts as they are recognized for their art. Many of these kids are very vulnerable with their pieces, sharing their hopes, dreams, fears and struggles. This contest gives them a chance to be heard and validated.”

Pitts said Utah schools have high participation rates in the Reflections contest but that there are always few entries in the Special Artist division for students who identify as having a disability.

“Last year, we had a national winner in the dance choreography category who captured our hearts with her enthusiastic wheelchair dance entry,” Pitts said. “We love seeing entries from special needs students and hope that more of them will learn about this opportunity and share their art with the Reflections program.”

The Reflections contest began in 1969. The impact the art contest has had on generations of students earned the founder, Mary Lou Anderson, a place in the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 2020. λ



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