Mention the word "competition" and the Dreyzehner brothers will jump at the chance to collaborate or compete against each other.
Both young men have received numerous awards on local, state and national levels in music, writing, art, photography, film and video - as well as sports.
Johnny and Jason Dreyzehner are the sons of two physicians, Dr. John and Dr. Jana Dreyzehner, in Abingdon, Va. The boys are probably best known as costumed interpreters, joining their parents year after year for Living History programs during the Virginia Highlands Festival in Abingdon.
Through the years, they have won awards in juried competitions at the Virginia Highlands Festival, from Creative Writing to Youth Art and Photography. As they grew older, both have assisted with display set-up for the exhibitions. They also help younger children with the Kids on Wheels decorating contest and arts and crafts activities at the Youth Tent.
When it comes to Creative Writing, mom Jana says, "Their writing reveals much about their personalities - with Johnny being more sensitive and feeling, and Jason more logical and scientific."
One interesting note: both boys entered arts-related competitions in every category in elementary and middle school, but did not have to compete against each other because they were in different age groups. Both of them won numerous awards in every category when there were no restrictions on the number of entries. Every year they each had at least one entry that would go on to the county, district, and then state level. In 2008 they both won first place at the state level for "Outstanding Interpretation" and their pieces went on to the national level.
But the competition heated up last fall when they had to be in the same age group for the first time: both were in high school, Jason a freshman and Johnny a senior.
Mom Jana says, "It was interesting to watch as a parent as they both planned to enter music composition again. After winning state last year, it did not seem that winning the competition was as much of a challenge to them as was using their strengths to create a musical piece at a higher level."
Johnny, who had previously written piano compositions, wrote an anthem for a SATB a capella choir, and Jason, who had just started adding percussion to his piano compositions, wrote a 24-page symphony.
Jana recalls, "The pieces were apparently difficult to judge - like comparing apples and oranges - because Jason won at the school level, John at the county level, and Jason at the district level. Both boys learned that while competition has been good for them in sports - in swimming they pushed each other to get best times and set new school records - they prefer to work together in the arts."
The boys just returned from the National Technology Student Association (NTSA) Competition where they won third place in the nation with their music video entitled "Technostorm." They also placed second with their website design, and Jason has many of his graphic designs on the site.
The brothers are very excited about their newest collaboration - finally, an event that required a team. They ventured from traditional instrumentation and composition to "techno" music - using Johnny's strengths in creating melodies, harmonies, and chord progressions, and Jason's abilities in percussion, synthesized instruments, sound effects, and computer programming.
The Dreyzehner brothers have amassed a number of awards - but they started at a young age. They won first place with handprints painted on canvas in the Langley Air Force Base Family Art Contest in 1994 (Johnny was age 3-1/2 and Jason seven months). They competed on Destination Imagination teams from kindergarten through seventh grade, and in the National PTA's Reflections Cultural Arts Competitions through elementary and middle school. For Destination Imagination, they both created music for their teams, which frequently placed at state levels. They also wrote scripts, acted, and created sets (with PVC pipes, duct tape and sheets).
Both boys have enjoyed summer art programs at the William King Museum. They also have attended the summer institutes for gifted children at Emory & Henry College, participating in art classes; Jason also studied robotics, rocketry, chemistry, and mathematics.
Jana says, "Their music teacher, Beth McCoy, has been instrumental in encouraging their music development for the last nine years. She has taught them a love for music that will undoubtedly be lifelong. She has encouraged music composition and arranged for composition workshops with Kenton Coe and the Greater Tri-Cities Area Composers Consortium."
Both brothers perform with the Highlands Youth Ensemble (HYE). Johnny has been singing for three years, while Jason has been their percussionist for two years, appearing in programs at the Biltmore Estate, Barter Theatre and in Hungary. This year at the HYE Valentine Cabaret on Barter Stage II, the boys did a duet of "Amazing Grace." They have performed together for weddings, with Johnny singing and Jason accompanying him on piano, and they also perform with the Praise Band for the contemporary service at Abingdon United Methodist Church.
• To see more pictures of the brothers through the years, click HERE. (Then place your cursor on a photo to bring it forward.)
Johnny Dreyzehner, 18, graduated in May from Abingdon High School. He was instrumental in founding his high school's first Jazz Band and was the jazz pianist and alto sax soloist. He had been an alto sax soloist in the E.B. Stanley Jazz Band in middle school. He was in the school marching band and concert band for three years and the chorus for senior year.
For the past three years, Johnny has been a member of the Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy and has participated in the Concert Choir of the OAKE National Honor Choirs, traveling to Chicago, Denver, and Washington, D.C.
His musical honors also include: 2007 Virginia Lion's Club Bland Scholarship for top six in piano; 2008 First Place in State PTA Reflections Music Composition; 2008 Governor's School; 2008 VMEA Senior Honors Choir, First in Region VII, Bass 1; and 2009 All-State Chorus. He portrayed Joseph in Bristol's Christmas program, "Journey's End," in 2007 and 2008.
On top of all this, John has received awards as an Eagle Scout and for various volunteer services, served as captain of his school's History Academic Team and swim team (and setting swim records) - the list goes on and on.
Jason Dreyzehner, 16, is a rising sophomore at Abingdon High and will be a foreign exchange student in Germany this fall.
His true passion is with computer programming, especially graphic design and web design. He started chapters of the Technology Student Association (TSA) at E.B. Stanley and Abingdon High and in three years has won two state championships and a national championship (using his art skills in graphic design, 3-D modeling, and web design), has been a top 10 national finalist in graphic design, web design, and electronic game design (using original art).
In the 2008 National PTA's Cultural Arts Reflections competition, his computer-animated piece entitled "The Stick Zone" won first place at the state level. He went on to the nationals where he received an Award of Merit in Music Composition, placing him in the top six in the nation for his multi-instrumental piece, "I Can Make a Difference by Dreaming Big." This is the first national award from Washington County, Va., in the 39-year history of the program.
Besides the Praise Band at church, piano lessons with Beth McCoy, drum lessons with Eric Quesenberry, music composition, and singing with HYE, Jason is the drummer for a new local band, Audrey Mallory and the Kids from Wolf Hills. The band has played in the Virginia Ballroom and for the Opening Weekend concert series at the Virginia Highlands Festival.
Jason also participates in cross-country, soccer and swimming; is a member of the Boy Scouts' National Honor Society for service; engages in science experiments; and takes an on-line course in Latin.
A SAMPLE OF THEIR POETRY
Advantage of a Tree
by Johnny Dreyzehner
at age 10
I really like to write in a tree.
It's the only place my brother won't be.
No one will bother me one little bit,
So they won't cause me to have a big fit!
But when it is a rainy day,
My brother will beg for me to play.
Then I'd be glad he'd play with me
Instead of it raining while I'm in a tree.
This poem was written for a
Virginia Highlands Festival Creative Writing competition.
by Jason Dreyzehner
at age 9
I train hard 2 hours a day,
Rarely space out, lollygag and play.
I listen and do what the coach says to do,
And slowly and greatly my times improve.
Now I'm at the meet and in the stands,
Resting and thinking "cup your hands,"
while others are running and playing games,
thinking mostly of trucks and trains.
I get on the block, race hard -- yes I will,
"Take your mark" says the starter, now I stand still.
Everyone goes quiet, I'm going to dive in,
and now I'm determined I'm going to win.
The buzzer sounds. I dive in the pool,
I level to the surface and follow every rule.
I'm speeding down, the pool water rushing against my face,
I stretch and touch the wall-I got first place!
This poem was written for a
Virginia Highlands Festival Creative Writing competition.
A SAMPLE OF THEIR ESSAYS
I Hold in My Hand the Grief of My Nation
by Johnny Dreyzehner
at age 11
On September 11, 2001, life changed for many people around the world. I had no idea how much life would change for me in my safe little town of Abingdon, Virginia. Before the tragedy of the terrorist attacks, I would hold in my hand a TV remote control or a game controller. I had no idea that in the end I would hold in my hand the grief of my nation.
As I watch the news clips of the rescue workers I can almost feel the heat and smell the terrible smell that makes them gag and vomit. I see the firefighters hot and sweaty and the tiredness in their eyes as they desperately try to find someone alive. I think they could really use a cup of water. As I sit and hold in my hand a cup of water, it suddenly feels very heavy and very cold as I realize that I can't give it to the workers. They are the heroes, and they deserve it more than I do. I think I'll never take for granted a cup of water again. In a way it is like a gift of freedom because people have gone before us to fight for our freedom to have it.
The adults around me are crying. It's confusing. They are supposed to be able to take care of anything, but they can't take care of what happened. I hold in my hand a tissue to give to them, but it feels like it's not enough. I can't stop what happened to the poor families or the emotion of the adults.
On television are people holding pictures of their loved ones asking others if they have seen them and trying to get someone to take their flier. I wish I could take a flier, but I can't through the TV. I can't hold it for them. Instead I hold in my hand only emptiness just like the emptiness they feel when they can't find their loved ones. I feel like I want to do everything that I can to help these people, but I know I can do so little.
In some ways my life has changed since September 11th. I feel like I can't do very much to help. Sometimes I hold in my hand the American flag. Sometimes I still hold in my hand a remote control or game controller. Sometimes I hold in my hand only emptiness. But I will always remember how I hold in my hand the grief of my nation.
I Wonder Why I Wonder Why So Much
by Jason Dreyzehner
Editor's Note: Jason he was 11 years old and in the sixth grade when he submitted this essay for the Reflections Literature contest in 2005-2006.
I'm told I was always an inquisitive child (among other things of course). I was always questioning things. I think that's part of the reason why I've always liked science. My family tells me that my interest in science is genetic because my grandfather is a scientist. He is a Ph.D. biochemist. He worked in a hospital laboratory as a clinical pathologist, but he wasn't a scientist just because he worked in a lab. He had a scientific mind. Scientific inquiry was always going through his head. He taught me a lot of what I know.
It started when I was in kindergarten. My brother did a science fair project about tornadoes that inspired me to do my first science project at the age of five. My first experiment was how many tablespoonfuls of salt it took to float an egg in water. My grandfather noticed my interest in science and wanted to encourage it. I loved doing experiments, so we did lots of organic experiments like turning a red bud seedling into a blue bud seedling and dissolving meat with hydrochloric acid. We also did some inorganic experiments like how soap affects surface tension in water, and we made gunpowder and identified its chemical formula. It seemed like he always knew the answers, and for those few questions he didn't know, he would make an experiment and test one of his hypotheses (which of course were right anyway).
We would sit down at the dinner table and talk about what we would blow up, dissolve, or melt the next day. Whenever I had questions he knew the answers. If we were watching fireworks and I asked how they work, he would have an explanation, draw it on paper, and make a hands-on experiment for me (that's where the gunpowder experiment came from). I got a mortar and pistil [sic] at the Smithsonian Institute thinking I might use it. It was just right for making gunpowder. We got sulfur at a garden supply store, charcoal from a pine tree and saltpeter at a hobby shop. We ground up the sulfur and charcoal and mixed it with the already ground up saltpeter in a roll of newspaper. Then we put the powder on a tile and lit it. A lot of people think that gunpowder just blows up, but it really just burns fast in a small flare. All that was left on the tile were some little white specks, which were just impurities in the garden sulfur.
When I was nine I really wanted a microscope. Somehow my grandfather arranged to get the microscope that he used when he was working in the hospital before he retired. He brought it to me in a large box and surprised me for my birthday. When I peered into the box, I saw the smooth gray metal with two lenses and couldn't believe my eyes. It was a real microscope. Not just a toy like I had seen on the shelves of Wal-Mart. This was the real thing. My grandfather told me all about how it was the very microscope that he used in his laboratory. It made me feel like he believed I could be the one to carry on the family expertise in science. I remember making a space in my room for it. It was my own lab. I filled it with homemade test tube racks, chemicals I had ground up with my mortar and pistil, and slides of blood and tissue from my grandfather's work collection.
Many times I have looked forward to my grandfather visiting. Each time I would have an experiment in mind that I wanted to try. It was always fun to wonder why with him. We could always look around us and find an experiment to do. I loved being with him and learning to think with a scientific mind. We based out of my lab and did things like making wet preps out of water from a puddle. It had rained a while before, but it hadn't dried up so it was full of algae (perfect for a microscope). We looked at amebas [sic] and other bacteria. He taught me a lot about the micro world.
Since then, I have learned a lot about the larger world from my grandfather, too. He didn't just teach me about science, he also taught me about faith. As much as he wanted me to always wonder why about things, in the end he taught me that with science, I am really finding out how things work and happen like the rules of the universe and chemical and physical reactions. We can find out how things happen, but we can't really find out why they happen. Even when we wonder why, we can't know why. There are some things that we have to leave to faith. I'm sure that even as I grow, whenever I wonder why I wonder why so much, I'll think of my grandfather and how we wondered why together.