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Murray Journal

Local student-artists honored as State Reflection winners—virtually

Jul 02, 2020 12:42PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest Junior High eighth-grader Leif Larson shows his top awards from the virtual state PTA Reflections award ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Cheree Larson)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

A junior high boy is smitten by a girl and is desperately trying to impress her. Instead, on more than one occasion, he trips and even loses all his notes before an entire class.

“The Crush,” which ends with the girl falling for the boy when he is taking care of his baby sister, is the film that captured the state PTA Reflections title by Hillcrest Jr. High filmmaker and student Leif Larson.

Leif was to be one of several area students to be honored at the state Reflections awards night, but instead, he watched from afar as the ceremony was aired virtually in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The theme for entries was “Look Within.”

“I was still surprised I won,” Leif said about the Award of Excellence in film. “I got the idea after we were throwing around ideas at dinner. I thought sure, I’d try to do a rom com (romantic comedy) and got some friends to help.”

The Murray teen estimates that he spent 25 hours on the project, beginning last September. He created sketches and a storyboard, learned how to edit from his older brother, and found music, as the entire story was delivered without dialogue—until the parting shot after the credits rolled—when the boy and girl learned they were second cousins.

“I had done Reflections when I was younger and won at region, but this is the first time I had won at state,” the eighth-grader said. “I had a lot of fun doing it and I learned new things while doing it. It’s a way we can express ourselves and still have fun.”

In fact, Leif was a double award-winner as his photo of the night sky at Capitol Reef National Park took the state’s Award of Merit.

Now with summer ahead of him, he already is brainstorming ideas to the theme, “I Matter” for this upcoming year.

“I want to win nationals someday. I think if I put enough work into it, I can do it,” he said.

Leif isn’t the only student set on working on Reflections entries this summer.

Crescent second-grader Carter Rasmussen in Sandy plans on “making up melodies every day for an hour” while he plays piano this summer.

Carter was the Utah’s primary division Award of Excellence winner in music in his first time entering Reflections. He composed and played a piece he titled, “I Found my Groove.”

“I liked the tune of it and named it because I like playing piano,” Carter said. “I tried playing soccer and all sorts of sports, but I didn’t like it. Then, I started playing on my grandma’s piano and I found I really like it.”

His mother, Taran, said that Carter can hear a song and is able to play it. He immediately started writing his own music and has been encouraged by his piano teacher.

“He is our musician,” she said. “We’re athletes and when we put him in sports, he didn’t like it. My mom had a piano and he sat down and played. He has an ear for music. His grandma on the other side plays as well.”

Carter sets up his own practicing.

“I practice an hour every day after I’m ready for school. On Fridays, I go to my piano lessons and on Sundays, I compose my own songs. When I grow up, I want to be an organist for the Tabernacle Choir (at Temple Square). I like the Tabernacle’s giant pipes,” he said.

Like Carter, Golden Fields fifth-grader Koda Brady in South Jordan regularly practices his passion—dance. Koda was the special artists Award of Excellence winner in dance for the state.

In his performance, “This is Me,” he dances moves he learned from a special needs dance class at a studio, ones he watched from TikToks and some he originated, said his mother, Jillian.

“He has a really cute heart and he dances all the time—in the hallways, the sidewalk, at recess,” she said.

Koda added that he dances on his trampoline and is working on perfecting a back flip as well.

While Koda’s teacher was encouraging him to enter a photograph he took of kids in a heart, which he did, Koda also wanted to enter in the dance category.

“I can feel it, I just like to keep dancing,” he said. “I can feel the music.”

Koda performed his routine at his house and his sister edited the video submission.

Both Koda’s dance and photo entries won at his school level and at district and advanced to region. At the regional level, his dance entry received the Award of Excellence and advanced to state.

Koda’s medals from the earlier rounds and his state acrylic plaque are on a shelf in their kitchen. His teacher and principal were excited and congratulated him on his success, his mother said.

“I’m proud of myself,” Koda said. “I like watching the video of me dancing again and again.”