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PTA Reflections State Award Winner: Sean Cunneen

By: Erica Prinzo

Sean (second from left) standing with other music composition winners in other grade divisions

On May 18th, Sean Cunneen (sophomore) of Rutherford High School performed at the PTA Reflections awards ceremony at Roselle Park High School. Sean performed his original music composition “Heroes Hanging On,” which won the state award and was given an honorable mention at the national level.


For the past 50 years, the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) has hosted their national “Reflections” contest, which according to their website “has helped students explore their own thoughts, feelings and ideas, develop artistic literacy, increase confidence and find a love for learning that will help them become more successful in school and in life.” The PTA chooses a unique theme for the contest every year, upon which students must create a unique composition in a chosen category of the arts, such as dance choreography, literature, film production, music composition, visual arts, or photography.


The theme for the 2019 contest was simply “Heroes Around Me.” Given this theme, Sean chose to write a song about the everyday heroes who tend to go unnoticed, such as parents and caregivers. The song begins:

“Every day you see them walking by

Listening to the unheard cries

Of the weak and the old and the young

They’re fathers and mothers, daughters and sons

They may not have much, but they’re second to none

In their care, in their hope, in their love

They’re tired and worn but they put on a smile

They wish they could slow down life for a while

(CHORUS)

Well they can’t hide away in a suit of armor

And they can’t ride away on the wind

They just keep trying harder and harder

And their spirit won’t give in

And they’ll walk through the darkness

And stay there ‘till the dawn

They’re heroes hanging on”

Sean wearing his medal from the contest

Sean’s song, set entirely to acoustic guitar, has a simple yet perceptive message that heroes are not just the bold and larger-than-life figures in society, but the everyday people that help others in a multitude of ways. In his reflection about his inspiration for writing the song, Sean wrote: “They are just ordinary people like us who stepped up. Without glory or honor, they must face their battles just by themselves, making them true heroes. I believe these heroes deserve a song as much as brave soldiers, clever innovators, and everyone else venerated by our culture.”


Sean’s message and his success in the PTA Reflections contest has brought much pride to the Rutherford community.

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