Most people return from vacation with some kind of souvenir as reminders of time spent away from home: fridge magnets, miniature spoons, bumper stickers, post cards.
But 16-year-old Anna Cooley, a junior at Standley Lake High School, instead brought back the inspiration to write an award-winning musical composition from her month-long stay in Germany.
“There was a day in the middle of the trip that we went hiking and I got inspired,” she said. “I wanted to find a way to let other people know what I was seeing and feeling.”
Cooley titled her piece “Bayernwald,” the German name for a Bavarian forest. She spent the remainder of her trip composing on paper and in concept. Cooley plays several instruments, but didn’t have any with her in Germany. When she returned home, she jumped into finishing the score.
“This is actually the only song I’ve ever finished,” Cooley said. “Before, I wrote because it sounded good. But with ‘Baynerwald’ I was trying to express something.”
She spent three weeks recording her piece on a guitar, a bass guitar and a trumpet, and recording lyrics. Then she laid the tracks over each other to complete the piece as she had envisioned a month earlier.
The experience, she says, was life-affirming.
“I was trying to convey how the experience itself had changed me,” she said. “But it didn’t change me, it just made me realize I knew more.”
Cooley said she has recently become inspired by the Lizst “Etudes” in E-flat minor, and that it has “inspired me to find a deeper meaning in music.”
Cooley thought her piece would be perfect for entrance into the Parent-Teacher Association Reflections contest, whose 2017 theme is What Is Your Story. Baynerwald was well-received, and Cooley has advanced to the national competition, with awards being announced May 1.
“I thought my piece was really relevant to the prompt of the Reflections contest,” she said. “So I went ahead and submitted it, and it’s done pretty well.”
Standley Lake Assistant Principal Chris Gould is not surprised Cooley has done so well with “Baynerwald,” but said he is impressed with her talent.
“I’m a lifelong musician and play several instruments. But I cannot fathom creating my own music,” Gould said. “A lot of people can read music, and a a lot of people can write music, but Anna’s the double threat. She can create and read music. She’s very passionate about her work.”