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Cook County Junior wins essay contest

Essay contest winner Will Brandenburg
Essay contest winner Will Brandenburg

The winners of the 12th annual PBS-8 High School Essay Contest have been announced and Cook County High School Junior Will Brandenburg took first place. His essay is titled “The Power of Music.”
He is the son of Rick Brandenburg and Ellen Hawkins.

The theme of writers and artists was “What Inspires You?” More than 800 students from 19 area schools submitted essays and there were over 350 works of art submitted. Art works go on display at 1 p.m. on Feb.14 at the Kruk Gallery on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus. Scholarship awards and readings of the winning essays take place at 3 p.m. at the Thorpe Langley Auditorium on the second floor of the UWS Old Main building.

First place/essay: The power of music
By Will Brandenburg, Cook County High School junior
The world can be a terrible place. Young people of today often feel disconnected and alone, part of a world full of war and hate. But one does not have to be chained to the world as it is. It takes a great leap of faith to cross the void from the dismal attitude modern society fosters to the beautiful world of possibility created by positive thinking. If anything makes me realize the great beauty of our earth and its people, music does. Music’s immense power to inspire stems from its variety, its timelessness and its universality.

Mundane and monotonous, the daily tedium of school or work too easily wears us down. We crave something different and exciting. Music is that something, the spark that can make an ordinary day extraordinary. We listen to our iPods and go to concerts to be free, to let the music transport us to a place a million miles away from the cubicle, desk, or kitchen. Music is an art form that is contrary to all the petty rituals of our constricted society; while our laws stand for obedience and deference, music stands for revolution and noncompliance. In a culture where hedonism is frowned upon as selfish and happiness is seen as an indication of laziness, music is a potent escape.

While our daily lives sometimes seem slow and uninteresting, everything around us is changing faster and faster. New technologies, inventions and ideas keep the world in a perpetual and confusing state of transformation. It’s comforting to know that some things stay the same. Who doesn’t recognize the explosive finale of the “1812 Overture” or the restrained depth of “The Moonlight Sonata”? And who doesn’t sympathize with The Beatles’ plea to “Let It Be” or Converge’s ethereal screams for peace? Great music is always present, real and timely.

Regrettably, war is also always present and real, though never timely. As battles rip our world apart, we desperately need something to hold us together. While different languages are barriers, music remains universal, a language all can understand. It’s easy to hate Iraqi insurrectionists when they are vilified as monsters on the news; it’s harder when you listen to their Oud playing and feel like dancing. Music makes us want to connect with others, not separate from them.

We might feel like writing off life as pointless and the earth as a planet of suffering, but music doesn’t let us. Music creates connections. It energizes people and makes us believe in the extraordinary. The world can be a beautiful place: you just need the right soundtrack.