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I had the pleasure of watching BUA’s annual Concerto Competition on Tuesday. Three students competed, one on saxophone, one on clarinet, and one on violin; they played challenging pieces from Villa-Lobos, Debussy, and Mozart, and did so beautifully. This language appeared at the bottom of the program: “[T]he winner will play their concerto movement with the BUA Orchestra at the Spring Concert on May 6 in the Tsai Center for the Performing Arts.” There was no grade, no course credit, no trophy — just the chance to play again on a bigger stage to a larger audience.

Later this spring, our seniors will present their theses to peers, teachers, and families on a dedicated symposium day. We have juniors working with a teacher on analytical papers for submission to the Concord Review. 10th graders recently shared their chemistry video projects over lunch with friends and teachers in the lab. 

Decades of studies have confirmed that a key piece of motivation is purpose: the understanding that what we do has an impact on others. As adults, we often choose our jobs, decide on philanthropic priorities, engage in community organizations, and prioritize family because those things affect more than just us. Teenagers are no different. If we want young people to do their best work, we need to find ways to make that work purposeful, which includes creating opportunities for them to write and perform for real audiences and push the walls of the classroom out to encompass the neighborhoods, people, and societal challenges around us. I’m proud to be at a school that understands that and unleashes these remarkable students. Our future is brighter for it.

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