Local teens win Schola Cantorum poetry contest


The Schola Cantorum choir held its second poetry contest for local high school students. They received over 90 submissions from students competing to hear their work set to music and sung by a choir of 75 voices.

Albert Zhao, a sophomore from a Los Altos High School, took home the $500 first-place prize and will have his poem, "Starry Night," set to original music by professional composer Marjorie Halloran.

Albert Zhao

Sonnet Phelps
"Starry Night," along with last year's winning poem by Los Altos High School senior Sonnet Phelp, will be performed at the upcoming concert, "A Celebration of Premieres and Commissions." Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church in Palo Alto on Saturday, May 20 and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 21, at the Los Altos United Methodist Church.

"I am delighted to learn that I won the contest and am looking forward to hearing my poem sung by Schola Cantorum," Zhao said. "Van Gogh's Starry Night has always been my favorite painting because of it's amazing portrayal of wind and light. I love the idea that the night sky, which is always thought of as dark, is painted as brighter than the world below."

The second place poem was "A Room of Art" by Gunn High School senior Helen Ngueyen, and Mountain View High School freshman Fabianca Palacios' poem "Niki Dermartino" took third place.

The contestants had the task of writing a creative poem about the theme of hope.

"Hope is more than an emotion, it is a powerful driving force behind change, self-improvement, healing ... the list goes on forever. Hope is one of the most important things in this world, and most powerful when shared and expressed through connection," said Ngueyen.

The judging panel, composed of Schola Cantorum directors and Silicon Valley community leaders, including local media and poet laureates, said they were impressed by the submissions.

"It's important to nurture the creativity of young people, especially now in these times of uncertainty in the world," composer and former Scholar singer Marjorie Halloran said. "With less funding going toward arts and music in schools, it's crucial that we inspire the next generation to

create art as much as they can."

General admission is $26, and free for students with ID cards. First Congregational Church is located at 1985 Louis Road, Palo Alto, and Los Altos United Methodist Church is at 655 Magdalena Ave., Los Altos. More information is at


Like this comment
Posted by kathleen porter-nielsen
a resident of another community
on May 18, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Just curious as to why Sonnet Phelps' photo is part of this Poetry article when her name doesn't appear anywhere? thanks.

1 person likes this
Posted by Community member
a resident of Waverly Park
on May 18, 2017 at 3:41 pm

kathleen porter-nielsen, you must be blind cuz it's clearly in the paragraph right below her name...

1 person likes this
Posted by harvardmom
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 18, 2017 at 7:00 pm

Is Sonnet's last name Phelp or Phelps? It's Phelps beneath her photo and Phelp in the third paragraph of the article.

Please don't tell me the bright winning student doesn't know the difference between it's and its. It's cringe-worthy (4th paragraph, 3rd line).

Seventh paragraph, first sentence, needs a semi-colon.

In spite of the article's cry for a little copy editing, the content itself is great. Congratulations to the winners and for the fine work being done by Schola Cantorum.

Like this comment
Posted by a sonnet
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 19, 2017 at 9:28 am

Glad to learn a Sonnet won the competition last year.
sonnet n. [old Occitan 'sonet' little song ] a fixed verse form of Italian origin consisting of 14 lines that are typically 5-foot iambic rhyming according to a prescribed scheme; also, a poem in this pattern

Like this comment
Posted by a sonnet
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 19, 2017 at 9:59 am

"The Starry Night" (Van Gogh 1889) with the Moon and galaxy M 51 (Whirlpool 'Nebula') - not to be confused with his 1889 "Starry Night over the Rhone" which clearly shows the Big Dipper part of the constellation Ursa Major (The Big Bear) in a dark sky.

Web Link

Loved the Cyndi Lauper "She's So Unusual" album reference (2nd in the Popular Culture footnotes).

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