Final Week of Musical Performances Increases Submission Totals Beyond 1,300 For Virtual Student Arts Competition

Original musical compositions from Riverside County students honored for depicting the theme, “Expressions of Hope.”

RIVERSIDE – Songs from Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Celine Dion, Louis Armstrong, Leonard Cohen, featuring original voice and instrumental compositions from students on piano, trumpet, flute, violin, clarinet, guitar, saxophone, ukulele, and through digital instrumentation, were honored in the sixth and final week of Art Connects, the Riverside County Office of Education’s virtual student arts competition.

Heartfelt recordings incorporating the theme “Expressions of Hope” were submitted by nearly 100 students. Performances included vocal solos, sibling duets, percussion ensembles, and digitally-produced tracks accompanied with imagery to create music videos.

TK-2nd Grade Category
Alana Romero, 2nd Grade
Ronald Reagan Elementary School
Desert Sands USD

3rd–5th Grade Category
Jaelynn Pondivida, 4th Grade
Alamos Elementary School
Temecula Valley USD

6th–8th Grade Category
Abel Vis, 6th Grade
Mission Vista Academy
Inspire Charter School

9th-12th Grade Category
Vasti Andrade, 10th Grade
Desert Hot Springs High School
Palm Springs USD

Meet 1st Place Winner, Vasti Andrade

Within the first few weeks of the stay-at-home orders, Desert Hot Springs High School sophomore, Vasti Andrade felt numb. As she sat at home preparing to practice playing her saxophone, she found herself overcome with emotions and unable to play.

“I remembered that I was having a really bad day. I was stressed and feeling overwhelmed. I just felt very vulnerable,” Vasti said. “The numb went away and the pain started to come out. I was really feeling empathy for others that were going through trials. I was quarantined and felt like I couldn’t do much at all.”

In the depths of the moment, a melody came to mind. Vasti quickly opened her phone to capture the moment by playing the notes into a voice memo recording.

“I had the experience of feeling very sad, and I had recorded the melody in the middle of it,” Vasti said. “I was very grateful for that.” It wasn’t until several weeks later that Vasti’s math teacher, 2018 Riverside County Teacher of the Year, Michelle Beyronneau, shared the Art Connects competition with all her students.

“For a week, I was overthinking which song I should choose. Then, the idea popped into my head about the melody on my phone,” Vasti said.

Using the GarageBand program on her computer, Vasti assembled violins, piano, and a track of harmonies to digitally supplement the melody. The finished track took three full days of work to produce and record and became her first independently assembled composition, named “Moon and Sun.”

“I was so excited. My adrenaline was going through the roof,” Vasti said. Vasti’s award-winning performance of “Moon and Sun” includes imagery, lighting elements, and other expressive elements to reflect her mood during the incubation period of the song along with the message she hopes people will receive when they see the performance.

“I needed hope. So, I wanted to be hopeful. At the very end of the song, there is a chord that makes it happy. I wanted to show that there is a light and a solution that we can fix this and overcome it,” Vasti said. “I hope people see the full perspective of what’s happening to us all during this time and that we should be grateful and positive through every aspect. With unity, we can make it through together.”

Meet 1st Place Winner, Alana Romero

As early as 6 a.m., Richard Romero has heard the voice of his daughter, Alana, singing in the back yard with the birds as the sun rises.

“She’s basically been singing ever since she was a baby,” Richard said.

Although she’s never had singing lessons, the second grade student from Ronald Reagan Elementary School in the Desert Sands Unified School District has been showcasing her musical interests in musical theater for several years—a preview of what she hopes will be a career as a singer on Broadway.

“I like to sing because it makes me feel free and it can make people hopeful,” Alana said. “When I heard about the competition, I thought I could actually show people my voice and make them smile.” During Alana’s winning performance of “Begin”, a song by Morissette Amon from The Voice Philippines that she heard the day before the competition deadline, she holds a homemade sign with lyrics from the song that reads: “We are better than the fears inside us.”

“I heard those words in my song, and I thought it would be nice to put them on the poster because it’s important to know that you are better than the fears,” Alana said. “To me, it also means that I’m even better than I think I am in my own brain.”

Student submissions came from public, private, charter, and home school locations throughout Riverside County with the following list of 35 winners in four age categories:

Art Connects Week Six Music Winners:

TK-2nd Grade Category

1st Place – Alana Romero, Ronald Reagan Elementary School, Desert Sands USD, 2nd Grade

2nd Place – Bennett Kimm, Susan B. Anthony Elementary School, Corona-Norco USD, 1st Grade

3rd Place – Ava Romero, Ronald Reagan Elementary School, Desert Sands USD, 2nd Grade

Honorable Mention

  • Cedar Vis, Mission Vista Academy, Inspire Charter School, Kindergarten
  • Harrison Williams, Harvest Hill STEAM Academy, Menifee Union SD, Kindergarten
  • Isabel Eldred, Castle View Elementary School, Riverside USD, 1st Grade

3rd-5th Grade Category

1st Place – Jaelynn Pondivida, Alamos Elementary School, Temecula Valley USD, 4th Grade

2nd Place – Eliana Dodyk, Ysabel Barnett Elementary School, Temecula Valley USD, 4th Grade

3rd Place – Hayley Anne Foo, Ysabel Barnett Elementary School, Temecula Valley USD, 4th Grade

Honorable Mention

  • Isabella Williams, Sundance Elementary School, Beaumont USD, 5th Grade
  • Jane Winter, Mission Vista Academy, Inspire Charter School, 5th Grade
  • Maddox Hackworth, Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, Riverside USD, 5th Grade
  • Jason Wen, Garretson Elementary School, Corona-Norco USD, 3rd Grade
  • Tayla SanFilippo, George Washington Charter Elementary School, Desert Sands USD, 3rd Grade
  • Anniston Elwood, Temecula Luiseño Elementary School, Temecula Valley USD, 4th Grade

6th-8th Grade Category

1st Place – Abel Vis, Mission Vista Academy, Inspire Charter School, 6th Grade

2nd Place – Jordan Bognacki, Bella Vista Middle School, Temecula Valley USD, 8th Grade

3rd Place – Denbert Burguillos, Elsinore Middle School, Lake Elsinore USD, 8th Grade

Honorable Mention

  • Luis Suarez, Margarita Middle School, Temecula Valley USD, 8th Grade
  • Ruby Montes De Oca, Vista Heights Middle School, Moreno Valley USD, 8th Grade
  • Sydney Robinson, Vista Heights Middle School, Moreno Valley USD, 8th Grade
  • Addisyn Sharpe, John F. Kennedy Elementary School, Riverside USD, 6th Grade
  • Tyler Bartow IV, Thompson Middle School, Murrieta Valley USD, 7th Grade
  • Dale Chatman, Bell Mountain Middle School, Menifee Union SD, 8th Grade

9th-12th Grade Category

1st Place – Vasti Andrade, Desert Hot Springs High School, Palm Springs USD, 10th Grade

2nd Place – Shawn Schwyzer, Hemet High School, Hemet USD, 12th Grade

3rd Place– Victoria Huang, Great Oak High School, Temecula Valley USD, 9th Grade

Honorable Mention

  • Camille De Los Reyes, Beaumont High School, Beaumont USD, 11th Grade
  • Elsa Long, Vista Murrieta High School, Murrieta Valley USD, 11th Grade
  • Mary Matthew, Temecula Valley High School, Temecula Valley USD, 11th Grade
  • Brenya Kimble, Vista Murrieta High School, Murrieta Valley USD, 12th Grade
  • Christian Longoria, Vista Murrieta High School, Murrieta Valley USD, 12th Grade
  • Katrina Cassandra Abeto, Chaparral High School, Temecula Valley USD, 12th Grade
  • Taylor Rosas, Patriot High School, Jurupa USD, 10th Grade
  • Timothy Dull, Great Oak High School, Temecula Valley USD, 10th Grade

About Art Connects

In an effort to help students channel their creativity during mandatory school closures due to COVID-19, the Riverside County Office of Education launched Art Connects on March 24th as a virtual student arts competition open to all students in transitional kindergarten through 12th grade in Riverside County.

“Despite the closure of schools, students in Riverside County are continuing to create, dream, and express their ideas through their own unique talents and abilities,” said Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Judy D. White at the launch of the program. “Artistic expression is a healthy way for students to process their feelings, exercise their creative abilities, and expand their understanding of a changing world. These expressions have the power to uplift others and bring meaning to their life and the lives of others during challenging times.”

The competition is open to all students in grades TK-12 attending public, charter, private, parochial, or home school programs in Riverside County. For each of the six weeks, students can submit their contributions at

Winners will be announced in each grade level category approximately one week after the submission deadline for each week’s competition.

  • 1st place award: $75 gift card from RCOE Foundation, plaque, and certificate of participation
  • 2nd place award: $50 gift card from RCOE Foundation, and certificate of participation
  • 3rd place award: $25 gift card from RCOE Foundation, and certificate of participation
  • Honorable mention: Certificate of participation

“The roster of distinguished judges looking to support student artists includes Riverside County artists, poets, choreographers, actors, writers, educators, filmmakers, and musicians,” said Riverside County Arts Administrator, Louisa Higgins. “Judging criteria will include creativity/originality, connection to the weekly theme, artistic composition, and overall impression.”
Art Connects Competition and Submission Schedule:

  • Week Six (April 29 – May 5):
    • Medium: Music
    • Theme: Expressions of Hope

Additional details on Art Connects are available at or by contacting Louisa Higgins at