Wayzata Public Schools

Wayzata High School Junior named Winner of the Minnesota Wind Orchestra Band Student Essay Contest

Wayzata High School Junior named Winner of the Minnesota Wind Orchestra Band Student Essay Contest

Wayzata High School Junior, Sarah Piepkorn, was named on of the winners of the Minnesota Wind Orchestra's Band Student Essay Contest.

Students were encouraged to submit their essays highlighting why band matters to them. Read the essay submission below:


My name is Sarah Joy Piepkorn. I am a Junior at Wayzata High School. I started playing the alto saxophone when I was in sixth grade and since then, my love for music has grown
exponentially. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that one day, I would still be playing in high school, let alone in a Wind Ensemble. I was born with a bilateral cleft lip and have
undergone numerous surgeries throughout my life. Inevitably, there are many challenges and changes I have faced because of it, but my band community has been with me through it all. This next following essay is to magnify an extremely special moment in my life where band truly turned my world technicolor.


Vincent and I were finally home together in room E245: The band room. The place where I leave my worries at the door. Where intelligent conversations crescendo into double forte
laughs echoing for miles down the hallways. Where inside jokes are bantered between a puddle of tuba spit on the floor next to a graveyard of discarded wooden reeds. After a double jaw surgery, three extended months of recovery, my third set of braces, ongoing battles with insurance, and many missed concerts, my doctor finally cleared me to play my alto saxophone, Vincent. The following day, I received a spontaneous offer from the Minnesota Music Education Association (MMEA), offering me a two week extension to complete their All State audition. Though this rigorous process typically takes two months, I accepted without hesitation.

What was I thinking? As I stared at the printed etude propped up on my music stand, its notes mockingly stared back, daring me to play. With every endeavor into the winding jungle of
rhythms, my fingers found themselves twisted and trapped in between each measure. My mouth was a foreign stranger as I tried to replicate the perfect embouchure I once had. Instead, a cacophony of dissonant notes blared awkwardly out of tempo. Every three bars my lungs gasped for air as though I had just finished running an uphill mile. Flipping to the next part of the audition, my heart sank at the sight of five scales shaped like steep mountains; I felt my chances slipping through my fingers.

Dear Dr. K,

I regret to inform you I can not continue this process. After three months of not practicing my saxophone, two weeks is not enough time to learn these materials, perfect them, and then record the audition. I am sorry.


My hand hovered over the send button, shaking with uncertainty as a wave of disappointment washed over my thoughts. At that very moment, a notification appeared at the
top of my screen entitled All state annotated etude. Saving the drafted letter to my band director, I opened the mysterious email with bated breath. It was from a senior saxophonist in my band; he was the designated class clown and had a wicked sense of humor but a true heart of gold. Stunned, I found no message, just a PDF file attached. The page lit up like a Christmas tree, glittering luminously before my eyes. A simple sheet of music had been transformed into a work of art. Each staccato, dynamic marking, and intricate rhythm was brought to life, highlighted in a myriad of vibrant colors. The once blank margins were scribbled in with handwritten notes offering advice and strategies. I deleted my drafted letter and got to work.

I spent the next two weeks living in the practice room, magnifying each tiny detail on the page. Repetitiously, I worked to rebuild and improve the technical skills that were lost after my surgery. My friend’s annotations not only served as my map and compass, but my reason to keep going. Recording after recording, the small pieces started to fit together in perfect harmony, forming a beautiful mosaic. As I took my final breath, my last note faded into silence. I hit stop. YES! I jumped triumphantly from my chair. The recording encapsulated my fervent passion for music, the unwavering support from my band family, and a victory in my medical journey. Beyond its dulcet melodies and complex rhythms, this etude will forever represent my journey from pain to strength.