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Area Senior Wins Third Place In ‘Teens Make Music’ Contest

Sherman senior Julie Ratzlaff and music teacher Andrew Minton. Ratzlaff won third place in the nationwide Teens Make Music Contest sponsored by the Grammy Foundation. Photo by David Prenatt

Sherman Central School District senior Julie Ratzlaff has a dream in her heart and a song to make it come true.

Ratzlaff has won third place in the nationwide Teens Make Music Contest sponsored by the Grammy Foundation, MusiCares, and the Partnership at Drugfree.org. According to the Grammy foundation website, “the contest asks young musicians, ages 14 to 18, to compose or create an original song … that explores, encourages, and celebrates a healthy lifestyle or accurately depicts a story about drug abuse.”

Ratzlaff explained that, on the first day of school, the guidance counselor showed her a paper about the contest. “I came in the next day with it all written out,” she said. The song is titled “Where Did You Go?” Sherman music teacher, Andrew Minton, said he was amazed. “She came in with a recording of the song on her phone,” Minton said. “We spent the next few weeks recording it track by track.”

Ratzlaff and Minton worked on the recording in an elective songwriting class that she is taking this year.

“Julie had been waiting several years to take this class,” Minton said. “It so happened she was the only student in the class this year, and this song fell into our laps as the curriculum. I used this to teach the normal process of recording a song.”

What followed was more than two months of work on the recording, Minton said. Using the computer program Garage Band, Minton and Ratzlaff built the song, recording such things as tempo, metronome track and the scratch track.

Then they recorded one instrument at a time, and finally, had to mix all the tracks into one, Minton said.

One of the hardest parts, Minton said, was reducing Ratzlaff’s six-minute song to the required length of four minutes.

“At one point, we sped up a section of the song to reduce the time and found we liked that tempo,” Minton said.

Ratzlaff said it was “incredible” when the final product was finished. “It’s amazing to see all the work you put into it come to completion,” she said.

As the third place winner, Ratzlaff will receive $100 and will attend a Grammy Awards Backstage Experience, a backstage tour that will allow her to watch the artists rehearse for the live Grammy awards, which will be on February 10.

She will also go on a guided tour of the Village Recorder Studio in Santa Monica and have her musical entry posted on Grammyfoundation.org and musiccares.org and on the Vans Warped Tour website.

Ratzlaff will be traveling to Los Angeles with her mother and Minton and his wife. While the Grammy Foundation pays for her attendance at the events, the travel and accommodation expenses are up to her.

The school and members of the community will be raising money on behalf of Ratzlaff, Minton said. Also, he will be seeking private donors and he is working on plans for a benefit concert where Ratzlaff will be one of the performers, he said.

Ratzlaff has been playing music since she was 13 years old and is proficient on guitar, piano and trumpet. She said she feels music can help a person deal with any emotions or situations.

“There is a song for everything. You know you’re not alone when you hear a song that someone wrote about something you are going through,” Ratzlaff said. “I don’t really like talking about my feelings. Playing music helps me release emotions I’ve been holding in.”

Ratzlaff said she would like to become a music therapist to help others deal with their problems through music. She hopes the song she wrote for the contest will someday help others. “It was something really important to me,” Ratzlaff said. “I figured the song could help others with the same problem as me.”

Ratzlaff said she is still shocked about winning third place in the contest. “I got an e-mail from them. I was at a basketball game and I started bawling my eyes out,” she said.

Now that the Grammy Foundation has officially announced the winners of the contest, Ratzlaff’s song has been posted on YouTube. It can be heard in it’s entirety at youtube.com/watch?v=OhMox71AUNw.

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