Teen composer wins “Reflections” art contest

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Many school kids in our region participate every year in Reflections. That's a program of the National PTA that encourages them to get involved in the arts. Students do projects in a variety of different creative areas, including music composition. This week's FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever has soared in that as a district winner and as an outstanding musical performer and all-around student.

It's an exhilarating experience watching talented, enthusiastic high school students pouring themselves into musical theater. And as the young singing, dancing actors rehearsed for this month's production of Seussical at Shawnee Mission North High School, there was Hannah Patterson, front and center, preparing to star as The Cat in the Hat.

"Singing has always been a real joy," said Hannah. "And also, God is a really important part of my life and I want to give glory to him. So I hope that (audiences) can be able to see that when I'm on stage or when I'm performing at a concert."

"There are several ways (Hannah) works as a leader in our program and is effective," said Shawnee Mission North High School Choral Director Juli O'Mealey. "One of those is that she works really, really hard. Everything she takes on she takes on with full force and follows through. But one of the biggest strengths she brings to our group is that she is so positive."

There are many sides to Hannah's special musical and performing talent. Smart, intuitive, versatile, Hannah even composes music, like the beautiful piece she created for piano and violin, with no real training. Hannah was on piano and her friend and fellow North High junior Annie Sinsel did the bow work as they played it for FOX 4 News on a recent visit to school.

"I started writing it my sophomore year around Christmas," said Hannah. "And it started as something I just messed around with on the piano."

As Hannah's composition evolved and she got it out of her head down onto sheet music, it took on a new, very deep personal meaning. And it got a title -- Mourning Sun. That's "mourning" -- with a "u", as Hannah turned her song into a requiem for her grandfather who passed away.

"The minor shows how we're sad he's gone from this Earth, but the major celebrates his life and the time we got to spend with him before he died," said Hannah.

"We cry every time we hear it," said family friend Cori Hastings who is accompanist for Shawnee Mission North High choirs. Hastings majored in music composition in college and mentored Hannah in getting her music written down in actual note form.

"There is a way that the lines move in and out and really compliment one another," said Hastings of Hannah's work. "And she does a great job of integrating the violin with the piano part so that it's two complete parts, not necessarily an accompaniment with a violin solo."

"She's taken the time to hone it and perfect it and let it morph into something different," said  O'Mealey. "And adding the violin was even better. Makes it into a tapestry. And that's an advanced thing to do."

Hannah made Mourning Sun so good that it won the Shawnee Mission Area Council of PTA Reflections art contest recently.

"It's been such an amazing experience," said Hannah. "I wasn't expecting to be honored. But then, I was. I got really excited. It's just been really cool and I feel very blessed." And now there are high expectations for Hannah and Mourning Sun to do well at both the state and national levels of Reflections.

"I'm not a music expert but when I heard it, I felt it," said Kim Benner, chair of the Shawnee Mission Area Council of PTA Reflections program. "And to me, that, that's what art is, is when you feel it. And for (Hannah) to open her soul like that -- truly amazing."

And an amazing reflection of the Reflections program theme -- Believe, Dream, Inspire.

Hannah's caught the bug now and is continuing to compose music and has several works in progress. She'll hear later this week about how well Mourning Sun does at the Kansas state Reflections art contest.

Meantime, Hannah and the rest of the cast and crew of Seussical will put on the musical at Shawnee Mission North High School March 7 and 8 at 7:00 p.m. with an additional 2:00 p.m. matinée on March 8.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.

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