Creative arts students make Overture Awards history

Drew Hoffmaster | The Chronicle

Mason High School (MHS) seniors Hailey Hartman, Christy Kim and Ellen Zhang were the first trio from a single school to each win an Overture Award.

Through the Cincinnati Arts Association, the Overture Awards program recognizes and awards talented creative arts students from the Greater Cincinnati area. Recipients are honored with a $1000 scholarship for the 18 finalists and a $3000 scholarship for the six winners. The awards are divided into six different creative art categories, dance, creative writing, instrumental music, theater, visual arts, visual arts and vocal music, each selecting four finalists and one winner. 

Photo contributed by Hailey Hartman
Mason High School’s six Overture Award finalists (from left to right) Hailey Hartman, Anna Matu, Christy Kim, Grace Kim, Alisha Verma and Ellen Zhang together at the ceremony.

To be considered for an Overture Award, students must submit a portfolio of work around early December. Then the finalists are selected and their work is returned to them with comments on where to improve. After revisions, the pieces were rejudged, and the winners were announced on March 16, 2024 the Arnoff Center.

Three other MHS students, Grace Kim, Anna Matu and Alisha Verma, were chosen as finalists for the award. This was the first time MHS had six students as finalists, and it is extremely rare for a school to have six students as finalists. In addition, this was the first time any school has had three winners.

This year was the second time Hartman submitted work to the competition. This year her portfolio included six pieces of poetry, a mix of previously submitted and new work, to the creative writing category that she had been working on for multiple years. 

Hartman’s inspiration for her pieces came from her aspects of her own life. She often would craft her poems from some phrase she heard or read that resonated with her. She said putting these words into poems was the next logical step for her.

“I just really like words,” Hartman said. “I like the way they come together. I just want to know more words, so to me the next logical step was that I should put them together and prose them into poems.”

To Hartman, the Overture Awards was her chance to submit her pieces to be judged and receive feedback. She said she realizes that writing is always very subjective, and she loves the idea of getting feedback on her pieces.

“At the end of each round, you get feedback from professionals in that specific discipline,” Hartman said. “I was drawn to this specific fact because that’s not something you get often in creative writing.”

Hoping to improve, Hartman plans to build upon the corrections and new ideas from the feedback she has received. She said even though she does not plan to go into the writing field, writing will play an important role in her life and whatever she does.

“It’s the skill of writing and being able to command language in ways that are unorthodox,” Hartman said. “[To me], it’s important to be able to convey words while still being engaging and effective. Especially, with anything I do.”

Zhang submitted work from her Advance Placement 2-D Art and Design Portfolio to the visual arts category. She said she is happy and honored to have won the award, but most glad about the opportunity to connect with other artistic students.

“That day we had the award ceremony, I had to stand among three other contestants,” Zhang said. “You’re among the most talented, most skilled, other artists, so you have no clue if you will win in the moment.”

To Zhang, art is a creative way for her to express herself. She said art lets her express the “spontanity and impulses” from her daily life that she can not find any other way to describe.

“I’ve never been great with words,” Zhang said. “So I turned to art and visual forms of media with using color, value and other forms of other artistic techniques to show my messages.”

Zhang said this competition is special because it lets students have the opportunity to grow from their work. She was glad her art teachers encouraged her to submit her work and take advantage of the opportunities presented to her.

“There’s not enough opportunities within the school for [students] to express themselves and get the feedback they want and communicate with those not in the high school,” Zhang said. “There just not as many opportunities here, like they have for STEM students.”

Kim submitted an excerpt from the Brahms Violin Concerto to the instrumental music category. She started playing the violin when she was about six years old and quickly fell in love with it.

“My mom introduced me to her friend who was a violin teacher,” Kim said. “At first it was just for fun as a hobby. Soon I started realizing how serious I wanted to become with the violin.”

This was the second time Kim was a finalist in the competition. Kim said she always tries to win an Overture Award because it is fun to her and allows her to meet people from different artistic disciplines and see new types of art.

“The competition was fun,” Kim said. “You get to meet people all these amazing artists, some who dance and write. The diversity makes it amazing to get to talk and know these people.”

Kim plans to continue with the violin in college, planning to major in music. She said these competitions have helped prepare her for the future, learning to put herself in the spotlight and get feedback.

“[The Overture Award] challenged me to put myself out there for a stressful period of time,” Kim said. “But I know, challenging myself will help challenge me and improve my art for the better.”