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Thank you to everyone that participated in the 2014 Direct Textbook essay contest. We very much enjoy reading your essays and thank you for the opportunity. We look forward to your participation in future Direct Textbook essay contests. Best wishes for the 2014 school year and beyond.

Winning Essay
Jordan Bidwell
University of Southern California

While doing research for a report on studio musicians, I read through interviews with freelancers. It seemed that the string players violinists, mostly took a stance on their career which I found odd and foreign. They spoke of freelance studio work as a fall from the grace of a soloist's career, but still a more honorable occupation than the orchestral violinist. I was shocked because, as a bassoonist, winning an orchestra job has always been my ultimate goal. I couldn't imagine that anyone would consider a spot in a symphony to be less than spectacular. However, while contemplating the difference between the second bassoon and fifth chair violin, I began to understand.

In the woodwind section, every person plays a singular part, and each note is a particular member of the chord. If the second bassoonist doesn't show up, the chord sounds distinctly different. The music isn't complete. In a violin section, several people play the same part. An absent fifth chair violinist might mean the sound is a little less sparkly, but all of the notes will be covered, and all the chords complete. I believe the reason violinists don't find considerable glory in a symphony position is that they do not experience a great sense of purpose. From what I have witnessed, this results in a great number of extremely gifted and adept individuals who feel as though they have failed, despite years of exertion honing a beautiful craft.

Personal purposefulness occurs when someone considers himself necessary toward an end goal. It increases quality of life by raising the self-perceived value or worthiness of an individual and, per human nature, everyone desires to be understood as valuable and worthy. Many people think worth comes in a package deal with attaining valuable objects or high stature, so they work hard to reach these things.

I believe instead that the sense of worth humans seek comes from the purposefulness that is intrinsic to effort. If a person's worth was measured by the value of his objects, the wealthiest people with the most expensive things would experience the highest quality of life (defined here as satisfaction of life). So why would a musician in a top-tier orchestra find a low sense of purpose and worth in his career? It is because his end goal was stature or distinction and so his self-perceived worth could only blossom from these things.

However, the reason purposefulness is inherent to effort is because effort signifies personal growth, and a person is always necessary to his own growth. If those violinists recognized that their purposefulness relied not on what was in their sheet music, but had already been achieved by the effort they exerted toward their ability to play the part that their personal musicianship and growth was the end goal, and that they themselves were crucial toward its completion I believe they (or anyone with a similar realization) would experience a much higher quality of life, independent of any situational factor.

Second Place
Erin Adkins
University of Southern Mississippi

Third Place
Mackenzie Williams
Eastern Connecticut State University