The Record (New Jersey)
February 4, 2001

Added February 8, 2001

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I found an article that appeared in the February 4, 2001 edition of a New Jersey newspaper called The Record. The article is about a high school senior named Michael Traynor, who is a young writer and musician who has been inspired by Tori. I think it shows very well how Tori can inspire excellence in others. You can read this article below or at The Record Online.

North Jersey scholar: Butler High senior turns passions into excellence

By Cathy Krzeczkowski
Staff Writer

"The Redhead, the Earthquake, and the Piano." Sounds like the title of a Mickey Spillane novel. Or a film noir.

But it's actually the title of 17-year-old Michael Traynor's college essay.

The redhead is singer/songwriter Tori Amos. The earthquake is a reference to one of Amos' albums, "Little Earthquakes." And the piano is the creative and emotional link that brought them together.

"Before I heard Tori Amos, the piano to me was the instrument of 300-year-old corpses like Bach and Beethoven . . ." wrote the Butler High School senior in his essay.

Amos "was the first musician I truly identified with. Her lyrical content expressed many ideas and feelings that I had locked up inside me and I realized she shared the same thoughts I did," wrote the teen, who's been playing the piano since fourth grade.

But while Tori Amos was the key that helped unlock Michael's inner thoughts, it was his own passion and creativity that helped him earn a number of awards.

A poem he wrote was selected by Morris County's Teen Arts Festival and published in its Teen Arts magazine, and he was a Governor's School for Creative Writing finalist. Michael also was chosen one of New Jersey's 10 Best Young Poets and his work was published in "The Apprentice Writer," an anthology compiled by Susquehanna University.

He's also played piano at a number of fundraisers, including Save the Music Foundation's charity recital and the Coffee House at Wayne Valley High School.

But the Bloomingdale resident is proudest of an award he received recently, the prestigious National Council of Teachers of English Writing Award.

"That, to me, was the biggest recognition I've received. It was my greatest academic accomplishment," says Michael. "When people think you're good and they think you've got some talent -- and they reward you for it -- it encourages you to keep going, to improve on your writing, and to see where it takes you."

And just where will his award-winning talent take him?

"Mike can do anything he wants to do," said his creative writing teacher, Lyne Ciccarelli. "He has the versatility to be able to write expository essays one minute and then, in the next minute, write a poem. And he does them both equally as well," she said.

It comes as no surprise that Michael names English as his favorite subject.

"I've always loved it. I'm always looking for ways to improve the way I speak, the way I write," said Michael, who plans to major in English at college. "So even without all these awards I'd still be writing up a storm. It's necessary for me to write, just like it's necessary for me to breathe. To me, writing is essentially a vital substance. I can't function without it."

"Mike's a brilliant writer. And a very good piano player, but the thing I like best about him is that he deals with his problems like an adult," said his guidance counselor, Mike Lorenzo. "He faces them head-on. No excuses. No games. He just solves what he has to solve and moves on."

One mystery Michael may like to solve is why he hasn't been inducted into the National Honor Society. He's a member of the Spanish Honor Society -- and he's also the yearbook editor -- but, so far, the NHS honor has eluded him.

"I worked my butt off last year and this year -- well, I work my butt off every year -- but I didn't get in to the NHS," he said.

It turns out Michael, who ranks in the top 20 percent of his class, has a 3.35 grade-point average -- and a 3.50 is needed to become an NHS member.

'That snags a lot of good kids," admitted Lorenzo.

But Michael's the type of person who shrugs off the snags. And anything else that bothers him.

"To me, as cliched as it sounds, being true to yourself is the most important thing you could do or be," he said. "The most important advice I can give other kids is to just chart your own path. Don't follow maps. Make your own maps if you have to. Just don't let anyone or anything drag you down.

"I'm the perfect example of that. I've had kids badger me. I've had people say things about me, that I stick out like a sore thumb. But really, what's wrong with a sore thumb? You've got to stick out; otherwise you're just going to blend into the scenery."

"Every man moves to the beat of a different drummer," said Ciccarelli, quoting Henry David Thoreau, "and Mike is someone who definitely hears his own music!"


Staff Writer Cathy Krzeczkowski's e-mail address is

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