Responding to cellist Sheku and pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason
In April 2022, cellist Sheku and pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason participated in a mini-residency with the Neighborhood Music Project. On April 27, the Trenton Youth Orchestra, which is made up of Trenton Central High School (TCHS) students and Princeton University student volunteers, opened for Sheku and Isata’s Princeton University Concerts in-person debut. The next day, the siblings visited TCHS, where they performed for and engaged with music students. TCHS students who attended either the Richardson Auditorium or the TCHS performance were invited to reflect on the experience in the Neighborhood Music Project’s third annual Express the Music Contest, open this year to creative writing and drawing entries.
The entries were judged by the following members of the Princeton University Concerts team: Marna Seltzer, Director; Dasha Koltunyuk, Marketing & Outreach Manager; and Tom Uhlein, Graphic Designer.
Learn more about the winners below and read their winning entries online.
First Place: Kilder Sanic, 12th grade
Kilder Sanic is a senior in the Visual and Performing Arts small learning community at Trenton Central High School. A multifaceted artist, he plays bells and marimba in the school orchestra and participates in the theater program. Despite not being particularly fond of writing, he stepped out of his comfort zone to participate in this year’s contest so that he could reflect on his journey of performing in the orchestra for four years, which has “made a huge impact on [his] high school experience.” Kilder is deeply passionate about his family and has competed in tournaments for the videogame Call of Duty.
Second Place: Guadalupe Bueno, 11th grade
Guadalupe Bueno is a junior in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math small learning community at Trenton Central High School. An avid musician, she sings and plays xylophone and marimba in the school orchestra. Visual art has also been a lifelong passion, and she hopes to become an animator or a cartoon artist someday. She entered this year’s contest to “try and kickstart some of [her] creativity” and get out of her artist’s block. While sketching her winning drawing, she “took time to fix every little detail so that it would look just right,” which was a very refreshing and satisfying experience for her. Guadalupe is most passionate about “creating anything, not just drawings”: games, stories, songs, anything and everything. She has also learned how to solve a Rubik’s Cube in under two minutes.
Second Place: Allison Cifuentes, 11th grade
Allison Cifuentes is a junior in the Health Professions small learning community at Trenton Central High School. At a young age, she discovered a passion for drawing that slowly developed into a fondness for the flute, which she plays in the school orchestra. In her words, drawing has always been “an opening to express myself and draw from my imagination.” She entered this year’s contest after watching Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason “demonstrate their love for the arts” during their “unforgettable show” and wanted to “give back by doing the same.” The drawing process is always calming for Allison, and although there are occasionally moments that stump her, she enjoys finding ways to push through creative blocks. She can also pick (most) locks.
Honorable Mention: Sherly Hernandez-Rodas, 11th grade
Sherly Hernandez-Rodas is a junior in the Restaurant and Business small learning community at Trenton Central High School. When she first began playing the violin, she didn’t particularly enjoy it, because she felt like she was doing it for other people. But slowly, she started to love the violin, not only because of its beautiful sound, but also because of the wonderful people she has met through her musical experiences. She has always had a big imagination and loves using her writing and drawing talents to keep people entertained. (This is how she met her best friend.) She entered this contest to venture out of her comfort zone and see how far she could expand her imagination. In her own words, “I know it’s not the best, but it’s the best for me.” Sherly is also an expert cook – a fact that surprises people who know her primarily as an artist.
Honorable Mention: Deborah Htu, 12th grade
Deborah Htu is a senior in the Restaurant and Business small learning community at Trenton Central High School. The arts have always been a way for her to express herself, either through drawing or music. Although her main instrument is the violin, which she plays in the school orchestra, she also plays the guitar, ukulele, and piano. When she was younger, she loved drawing; however, she stopped drawing in the seventh grade when she chose to play the violin and has only taken one art class since then. She entered this year’s contest because she “wanted to try something new without regret” and “have memories of what [she] did during [her] senior year of high school.” After watching Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason perform the spiritual “Deep River,” Deborah listened to a recording of the piece multiple times to develop an image in her mind before beginning to draw. She is passionate about “learning new things or trying out something that [she] never thought of doing, because it doesn’t hurt to try.” She also speaks three languages.