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. 

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.

Thank you to all the teachers who participated in ETM! During the 2022/2023 school year, more than 7,000 students from 45 schools explored the “The Great Gate of Kiev” from Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and wrote poetry and prose that expressed their own creative thought and emotions inspired by the music. 585 submissions were received, and from this group 50 finalists were selected. Read the compositions from all the 2023 Finalists at the link below.



Poetry (Junior Division):
First place: Marlee Cooper, 8th grade, Parkway Central Middle School
Second place: Annie Koboldt, 7th grade, Parkway Central Middle School
Third place: Ellie Feldman, 7th grade, Desert Ridge Junior High School

Poetry (Senior Division):
First place: Talie Kubicek, 12th grade, Parkway North High School
Second place: Kathryn Schwaneke, 11th grade, Villa Duchesne
Third place: Isaiah Burdell, 9th grade, Litchfield High School

Prose (Junior Division):
First place: Lila Lowery, 8th grade, Villa Duchesne
Second place: Ellie Borage, 8th grade, Westminster Christian Academy
Third place: Daniel Liang, 8th grade, Parkway Central Middle School

Prose (Senior Division):
First place: Alexander Gaj, 10th grade, Parkway South High School
Second place (tie): Claire Myers, 11th grade, Villa Duchesne
Second place (tie): Alex Tyrrell, 11th grade, Villa Duchesne

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

SLSO education programs are presented by:

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