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Music to our ears

Issue: "Ronald Reagan: In memoriam," June 19, 2004

When Akshay Buddiga fainted at this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee after being given the word alopecoid, he guaranteed that the event would receive more than its usual amount of coverage. But when all the spelling was done, at least one interesting subplot had been overlooked: the degree to which the music-listening habits of the spellers validated Bill Cosby's recent diagnosis of the role of language in determining one's success.

Of the 265 speller bios in the Bee's official program, Bee Week 2004-bios submitted by the spellers themselves-59 percent contain references to participating in choral activities, playing instruments, and/or studying dance. Only one speller described himself as a rap fan, and he went out in the second round after misspelling the word jarana.

Of the 15 who survived into the notoriously difficult final rounds, 10 were self-described musicians. Other than not listening to rap, however, little emerged in the way of a common thread. "I like classical music," Marshall Winchester, 12, told WORLD, identifying Elgar, Mozart, and Beethoven as his favorite composers. Maddy Kloss, 14, on the other hand, cited the female rock band Lillix as her music of choice, adding that her father "really likes Bruce Springsteen and the Police and stuff like that, [so] I like it too."

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The blues received a plug from John Ausick, 13 ("I really like Robert Johnson. He was a really good guitar player and singer"), while Katie Olson, 13, spoke up for the education-enhancing properties of the Contemporary Christian Music veteran Michael W. Smith (specifically his This Is Your Time CD) and the Christian reggae of Christafari and Temple Yard.

Rounding out the non-rap spectrum were Chloe Bordewich, 14, and the aforementioned Akshay Buddiga, 13, jazz and symphonic-soundtrack aficionados respectively. An honors-band trumpeter herself, Miss Bordewich said that given her choice of free concert tickets, she would probably select "one of the great trumpet players." "A lot of them are getting really old," she added, "so although that's not my favorite type of music, I think that would be a really great experience." Mr. Buddiga, who recovered from his onstage collapse to finish second overall, touted the music of the former Boston Pops conductor John Williams. "He's my favorite composer," he said. "Harry Potter, Star Wars, Jurassic Park-those are really good."

But what about the winner, 14-year-old David Tidmarsh of South Bend, Indiana? "You read that classical music helps you study," he said, "so I started listening to a little classical music on the radio when I was looking at the words." And how much rap? "I like listening to rap once in a while," he confessed, "but too much of it can really fry your brain."


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