Wheaton girl wins state, national honors for song
When Gabriella "Gabby" Herrera, a second-grader at Wheaton's Longfellow School, decided to enter the National PTA's art program, it was because she wanted to win a medal.
Now she proudly wears two medals and has earned a national merit award.
Gabby's original musical composition, "Birds in the Sky," won first prize in the Wheaton Warrenville District 200 competition for primary students. Her entry then advanced to the state level, earning her another first-place medal and the opportunity to advance to the national competition, where she received the Award of Merit.
She is among only three students from Illinois to place on the national level in the contest that promotes the arts. Madeline Levi, a second-grader at Johnson School in Warrenville, won a Merit Award for her entry in the visual arts.
Reflections is a PTA-sponsored art program that encourages students to create works of art centered on an annual theme. This year's theme was, "I Can Make A Difference By…"
Gabby is a misnomer, because "She's a very quiet girl in class," said her teacher Esther Harris, "but she seems to have quite a lot of talent."
Harris stresses that no class time is spent on the Reflections program. All of the work is done at home.
"The PTA moms and Mrs. Rowena Rea have done a tremendous job in getting the kids interested," she said.
This year Longfellow had 70 entries at the school level. Work is judged at the school level, then winners move on to District 200 competition, followed by the PTA's area district and finally to state, with 303 schools participating throughout Illinois.
Sixty-eight musical entries were judged at the state level. Gabriella's was the top-ranked entry, allowing her to advance to national judging.
"I wrote it ("Birds in the Sky") in one night," said Gabby, "but then I worked on it. I tried the right hand three times and the left hand alone three times. Then I slowly did them together. I tried to add some lyrics and then I tried to sing and play at the same time."
She is now working on another composition, "Melting Ice." Gabriella practices piano every day after school, except for the day she takes lessons at Wheaton College.
Four other Longfellow entries also advanced to the state level this year. Honorable Mentions were awarded to Susan Dorf, fifth grade, intermediate dance; Divya Rea, third grade, intermediate dance and intermediate music and Riley Simpson, fourth grade, intermediate video.
Longfellow Elementary School had more entries recognized at the state level than any other participating school.