Express the Music

Showcase your students’ imagination and creativity with Express the Music (ETM), now in its 26th year of celebrating student poetry and prose from throughout the region. ETM, a free cross-curricular writing competition, invites students in grades 6-12 to discover an orchestral work and respond with poetry or prose that expresses creative thought and emotion inspired by the music. This school year, students will explore “The Great Gate of Kiev” from Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (orchestrated by Maurice Ravel)

How to Participate

Participation in this cross-curricular program is free and online submission allows for quick and easy entry. With Express the Music, middle and high school students listen to the selected piece of music in their classrooms, write prose or poetry inspired by it, and edit and refine their compositions. Teachers encourage creativity, guide the writing and editing process, and select the prose and poetry to submit. Finalists are celebrated in a public ceremony at Powell Hall where top entries in each category receive cash prizes. Finalists' compositions are compiled in a book that is distributed at the ceremony.

See the Teacher Guide below for specific details including how to prepare and submit student entries. 

teacher guide

Applications for the 2022-23 school year have closed. If you’d like to be notified about future opportunities to participate in Express the Music please complete the Interest Form below.

Interest form

Congratulations 2022 Express the Music Winners!

Thank you to all the teachers who participated in ETM! During the 2021/2022 school year, more than 1,900 students from 32 schools explored the fourth movement of Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 and wrote poetry and prose that expressed their own creative thought and emotions inspired by the music. Over 400 submissions were received, and from this group 52 finalists were selected. Read the compositions from all the 2022 Finalists at the link below.



Prose (Junior Division):
First place: Finn Borchardt, 8th grade, Parkway Central Middle School
Second place: Caleb Porter, 8th grade, Parkway Central Middle School
Third place: Elle Wujcik, 8th grade, Parkway Central Middle School

Prose (Senior Division):
First place: Grace Hanson, 10th grade, Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School
Second place: August Alcaraz, 11th grade, Parkway South High School
Third place: Beatrice Lohman, 12th grade, Nerinx Hall

Poetry (Junior Division):
First place: Isabella Angelo, 6th grade, Parkway West Middle School
Second place: Eden Batten, 7th grade, St. Peter School
Third place: Cecelia Hahn, 8th grade, Truman Middle School

Poetry (Senior Division):
First place: Claire McBride, 11th grade, Nerinx Hall
Second place: Tessa Palermo, 9th grade, Clayton High School
Third place: Bethany Lai, 9th grade, Clayton High School

Poetry and prose entries were reviewed separately using a multi-judge blind process. Volunteers from the SVA served as preliminary judges while two panels of experts judged the finalists' compositions.

Contact Us


Express the Music is presented by the St. Louis Symphony Volunteer Association and sponsored by Employees Community Fund of Boeing St. Louis.