BLS Musicians Impress in Noteworthy Scholars Contest


The Boston Saxophone Quartet appears with the Noteworthy Scholar Finalists. (Source: Edie Muller Snyder)

One of Boston Latin School’s most recent musical triumphs came from three students’ performances at the Noteworthy Scholars Competition. This music composition contest ended with a showcase of the finalists’ pieces by the Boston Saxophone Quartet (BSQ), who then chose a winner to kick off the new year.

The competition, open to all Boston Public Schools students, required competitors to create an original composition or modify an existing piece, both of which should be able to be performed by BSQ’s four saxophonists. Three BLS students, Elliot Bruntrager (I), Lyrik Fulton (I) and Michael Lee (I), were named as finalists after the first elimination round. BSQ then premiered their pieces at Boston First Night 2022 on December 31, 2021. After this final round, Lee was declared winner and awarded a 100-dollar scholarship.

As a classwork assignment, all students in music theory classes at BLS began composing pieces for the competition and were encouraged to submit their projects. Ultimately, Bruntrager, Fulton and Lee completed their pieces and entered the contest. All three students were selected as finalists and declared 2021 Noteworthy Scholars.

The composers’ accomplishments attest to the impressive programs taught by the BLS Music Department. BLS chorus director and music theory teacher Mr. Ryan Snyder reflects, “Unfortunately, not all schools have music composition classes, [and] we are lucky to have two levels of music theory at BLS.”

Bruntrager, one of BLS’s finalists in the competition, taught himself the guitar and piano around 2019 and is taking AP Music Theory, where he learned about the contest. He discusses the difficulty of the competition, saying, “It definitely wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. […] My piece was not an original piece; it was a medley of two pre-existing pieces, and it was still really difficult to get all of the timing right.” The medley was a combination of two Pokémon songs, which younger audiences can be enthusiastic about. “There was a lot of nostalgia and childhood memories associated with those songs,” adds Bruntrager.

Lee, who won the competition, also arranged a song derived from popular media. He chose to modify the theme song of the anime series My Hero Academia, which he had just finished watching when he began his project. Lee has long been involved in BLS’s music program, and he began playing the trombone in seventh grade. He has taught himself to play other instruments as well and although he was reluctant to participate with first, Lee completed the project at the encouragement of Mr. Snyder and fellow competitors. He says, “The most challenging thing might have been writing music parts for instruments I had never played in a clef I had just learned.” Despite these difficulties, Lee’s dedication and musical past enabled him to arrange a prize-winning piece.

The talent of these young musicians exhibits that BLS, although known primarily for academic prestige, also values and fosters artistic creativity. BLS is host to many visual and performing art classes and programs, and like the three Noteworthy Scholar Competition finalists, students are encouraged to explore these opportunities.