PTSA Reflections Program offers creative outlet for students


Senior Ben Rouder, first-time Reflections Program contestant, warms up on his trumpet prior to a jazz band rehearsal.

Nikol Slatinska

Registration for the annual PTSA Reflections Program is coming to a close, as submissions are due at 4 p.m. Nov. 4 in the principal’s office to secretary Denise McGonigle.
The contest, which consists of students submitting pieces for one of five art categories, offers opportunities for contestants to be locally and nationally recognized for their creative abilities.
PTSA chair member Monique Lorson encourages students to enter the contest, as she said it will benefit both them and their school.
“The Reflections Program, starts as a school competition in six different categories: film production, dance choreography, photography, literature, music composition and visual arts,” Lorson said. “Top submissions from each category then are submitted to our state for competition, and top state entries then moved forward for national competition. At each step along the way judges in the field rate the submissions based on defined criteria. As a result, students who submit entries not only get to enter competitions that showcase their talents but get recognized in a very positive and professional manner. Some of RBHS submissions have made it all the way to National Competition.”
One of those submissions was alumna Alice Yu’s music composition entry, “The Grand Escape,” which won an Award of Merit at the national judging level. Yu began participating in the Reflections Program in second grade and continued to until her final year of high school, so the event became somewhat of a tradition for her. The process of composing a new piece, however, was unique every time around.
“Every year it’s kind of different in terms of composing a piece. It also depends which instruments I use for my composition,” Yu said. “I’ve composed solo piano pieces as well as pieces for ensembles, like a trio or quartet. I’ve definitely changed my composition style throughout the years, but normally I compose a piece in the summer when I’m not loaded down with academics, school and whatnot.”
She typically begins the music writing process by playing around on the piano and finding a central theme. Once once she finds that theme, she goes from there, adding more layers to it. All in all, Yu said she doesn’t have a set method; she just adds whatever feels right and sounds good.
For first-time contestant senior Ben Rouder, that series of actions is not as defined yet, but he has already begun working on his entry nonetheless.
“I’m writing a fantasia,” Rouder said. “Basically, it’s where you have a main melody and then compose a ton of variations. I’m using this to symbolize how I’ve come to realize I control my own attitude and I’m responsible for my own happiness, so it’s up to me how to perceive life.”
Attitude is a key piece of advice Yu has for those planning to enter the contest. Although being nationally recognized for her musical talent felt nice, her favorite part of the whole process was improving herself. She advises participants to see the contest as an opportunity to better their skills, as she sees self-growth as the greatest accomplishment.
“Just because you don’t place or anything doesn’t mean what you created isn’t good,” Yu said. “Your value and the value of your work does not solely depend on a first place title or any title. If you think you kicked booty and did the best you could, then you kicked booty and did the best you could. A judge who’s removed from your creative process and who only has time to read, see, or hear your creation once doesn’t get to take away from that.”