Eighth grader composes award winner

Nina Cruz won the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra’s Crystal Baton Competition with her insrumental melody “Walking Blues.” The eighth-grader will receive her handmade crystal baton at the symphony’s Tuesday, March 5, concert.



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Nina Cruz won the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra’s Crystal Baton Competition with her insrumental melody “Walking Blues.” The eighth-grader will receive her handmade crystal baton at the symphony’s Tuesday, March 5, concert.

Nina Cruz knows how to write more than what is required by her eighth-grade teachers at East Middle School.

In fact, her recent award-winning composition was not part of her school curriculum at all. And instead of using words, she used musical notes.

“Walking Blues,” an instrumental melody and Cruz’s first composition, won the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra’s fourth annual Crystal Baton competition. Her melody was chosen by a panel of judges that included the symphony’s music director, local music teachers and musicians.

The contest was open to all elementary and middle school students in Grand Junction. To compete, Nina was required to write an original melody that was 16–64 measures in length and notated on a staff sheet or with a computer program, said Jeremy Herigstad, the symphony’s marketing director.

Her melody currently is being orchestrated and will be performed by the symphony during its American Portrait concert on Tuesday, March 5. During the event, Cruz will receive a handmade crystal baton.

“Walking Blues” is a blues-style melody written to symbolize how Cruz’s 3-year-old dog, Peet, acts while on a walk. The chocolate colored goldendoodle, who resembles a fluffy teddy bear, jumps around one minute and walks slowly the next.

Cruz enjoys walking Peet with her mother, Jane Kuenzel, and father, Joe Cruz, on winding trails near the wildflower capital of Colorado, Crested Butte.

Cruz said her melody came to her effortlessly. She fiddled around on her piano one day and composed most of it on the spot. She wasn’t planning on submitting her composition until her mom suggested it.

“I didn’t really think I was going to win,” Cruz said.

Since entering middle school, Cruz has taken weekly private piano lessons with Misty Sothers, who Cruz credits with helping her learn how to write music.

Cruz is part of her middle school’s choir and her district’s honor choir.

Cruz also has a musical family. Her mother has been the symphony’s principal flute player for eight years. Kuenzel’s orchestral involvement began at Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra when she was just a teenager.

Cruz’s 15-year-old sister Rachel has played the cello for four years and, before that, the piano.

“I haven’t really taught (Nina) music, but I think I have helped both my kids understand the importance of practice and perseverance and that there is not an easy way to do something well without work,” Kuenzel said.

While Cruz likes music, her true love is competitive gymnastics, which she has been involved in for about six years. She competes in all of the gymnastic events, but prefers the floor routine.

And when she grows up, Cruz said she would like to work with animals because she has always loved them and thinks they’re “just so sweet.”



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