Student finds success writing songs

St. Peter Grade School student Megan Villanueva, 8th grade, plays piano during an afternoon service at the local Catholic Church Wednesday. She's been playing for school services since 7th grade but has been playing piano since first grade.

St. Peter Grade School student Megan Villanueva, 8th grade, plays piano during an afternoon service at the local Catholic Church Wednesday. She's been playing for school services since 7th grade but has been playing piano since first grade. Photo by Julie Smith.

“Things just come to me,” said young song composer Megan Villanueva.

The active St. Peter Interparish School eighth-grader could be in the middle of ball practice or focused on school work, then the words for a song spring into her mind.

So she’ll write them in her phone for later.

Through piano lessons and learning to play guitar at St. Peter music classes with Donna Stuckenschneider, Villanueva then can add chords. And voilá, she has her creation.

More than that, song-writing is a way for the youth to express herself, and it can be a stress relief, she said.

The sixth annual Creating Original Music Project through the University of Missouri has reinforced her personal outlet also shines with talent and potential, as her song “Insanity” received first place in the middle-school category for popular music.

Her song “is about you don’t know who you’re going to be in the world.” And she has performed it for friends who “identify with it.”

“When I heard it, I thought it was a first place,” Stuckenschneider said. “Megan has an incredible voice; as a musician, she has a style all her own.

“She’s a very gifted individual; this music part just flows out of her.”

April 23, Villanueva will perform “Insanity” at the Creating Original Music Project’s New Music Festival, along with other young composers and their works winning in the elementary and high-school categories.

Villanueva also earned third place for her song “Our Journey,” “about growing up and how we have to move on,” in 2009. That same year several students from Moreau Heights Elementary School also received recognition in the elementary category.

More than 100 students applied to the COMP contest this year, which continues the annual increase of involvement, said Billy Lackey, who does publicity and coordination for the COMP program.

Mid-Missourian Jeanne Sinquefield donated through her family foundation to establish not only this contest, but a summer camp for young composers and a New Music Initiative at the college, to further original composition work.

The opportunity for the students to hear each others’ work and to see their peers excelling at the same thing they are interested in is a key benefit to the COMP program, Lackey said.

Although Villanueva enjoys writing songs and performing them at talent shows and other opportunities, she’s not set on music performance as a career, but it will always be with her, she said.

“She doesn’t have a choice; Mother Nature has taken care of that,” Stuckenschneider joked.

Nevertheless, her first-place honor “is a big step forward,” Villanueva said. “I realized there’s a lot more that I can do — maybe with two instruments or adding drums.” The competition has encouraged her to write more music. “It helped me realize my songs mean something,” she said.

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