The award Michael won was Virginia's highest honor for musical composition in his grade division in an arts recognition and achievement program called Reflections. The national PTA-sponsored Reflections program covers photography, visual arts, literature and musical competition. Competing in one of four grade divisions, students from preschool to 12th-grade have opportunities to win at the school, county, district, state and national levels.
"It's a fantastic way to promote the arts for kids," says Jennifer Young, an officer in the Hanover County Council of PTAs. "All the work has to be theirs, so it really gets them thinking. And there are so many artistically talented kids in the schools. The things that these kids do are just phenomenal."
The PTA emphasizes that the goal of Reflections is participation, not winning. Children are encouraged to experiment with art and discover their unique gifts and talents. Since the program began in 1969, more than 10 million students have participated. "Every participant gets at least a ribbon," says Young.
Each year, the national PTA announces a theme for Reflections and challenges students to submit their most imaginative interpretations on that theme. Themes are selected from thousands of ideas submitted by students to their state PTAs. The theme for the 2002-2003 Reflections program is "Signs of Courage," the brainchild of a North Carolina middle-school student.
Inspired by the theme, Michael Hyland won first place in his school and Hanover County for his latest composition titled "Courage for the World." He looks forward to award announcements later this month.
Michael has a tried and true creative technique. "I think about the theme and what would go along with the theme," he says. "I think of courage like a knight slaying a dragon, and like a fireman going in a fire to rescue somebody, and maybe even sometimes a policeman going after a bad guy."
Michael's younger brother Mathew shares the family gift for music. The kindergartener won second place at the local level for his own original musical composition. "I'm very proud of them," says mother, Bonnie Hyland. "It's pretty neat to watch it all unfold."
The theme for next year's Reflections program is "I'm really happy when " Program guidelines will be published by the end of the school year, and submissions are usually due in November, though deadlines vary from school to school.
Michael encourages other students to stretch their artistic wings because "it feels good if it wins, even if you place third." FS
Michael Hyland and his brother Mathew have each been winners in the "Reflections" program.
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