Viola Career Carries On

Every year, Emerald Ridge, Rogers and Puyallup give 20 seniors the award of Top 20 Senior, consisting of individuals who represent their class, as well as their school and the district.

Brynn Cogger is another Top 20 senior who wasn’t expecting to make the list. 

“I was pretty happy when I found out that I was a Top 20 Senior. I feel like I’ve worked really hard throughout high school and I didn’t work hard with the expectation of getting top 20, but it was nice to get the recognition,” Cogger said. 

One of the biggest struggles for many students was the pandemic, but returning back to school was one of the most welcoming experiences for Cogger. 

“Experiencing COVID my first year in high school was weird because I was getting used to high school and then everything changed,” Cogger said. “When we finally came back in person, it was really fun and I made a lot of new friends. I didn’t realize how much I had missed in person learning until we came back. It was nice because I made friends that had the same motivation for school that I had through AP classes.” 

Showing support to everyone is a key value of the district, so showing recognition to the hardest working students encourages everyone at PHS to achieve their goals. 

“I don’t think [the Top 20 senior list] is super important; it’s not going to help me get into college or anything. But I think it’s nice that PHS does something like this to recognize their students and show that they do care about the hard work their students are putting in,” Cogger said. 

The journey to Eastman School of Music for Viola performance was difficult for Cogger, but her persistence led her to success. 

“I started playing the viola in fifth grade at Ferrucci Junior High and then I joined the Tacoma Youth Symphony when I was in eighth grade. I’ve been principal Viola ever since I joined the youth orchestra,” Cogger said. “I didn’t realize that I wanted to do music until I was in 9th or 10th grade and I started to really get into it. I started researching different music schools and I wanted to get into Eastman. It was like a little bit of a dream when I got in and I was super surprised because it’s a selective school.” 

Cogger says she looks to play for a professional orchestra in the future, as well as study the cognitive sciences at Eastman School of Music. 

Another reason why I chose [Eastman School of Music] is because they have a dual degree program. So, I’m earning a degree in Viola performance but also Brain and Cognitive Sciences. I hope to either be a professor or professional in a major orchestra,” Cogger said. 

According to Cogger, music isn’t just a hobby; it can help in other aspects of a person’s life as well. Learning to play with other musicians can improve social skills and cooperative capabilities. 

“[Music] has helped a lot with forming relationships and my work ethic. To get good at an instrument, it doesn’t happen overnight and you can’t just cram for it like you can cram for a test. You have to practice every single day for at least an hour to get your part down and learn the different parts of the music,” Cogger said. “Through the youth orchestra and when playing in an ensemble, you have to learn how to collaborate with people and how to work with people, even if you don’t like them. So, it teaches you how to be a contributing member of something bigger than yourself.” 

Getting to the Top 20 senior list wasn’t easy for Cogger, she had to jump over many hurdles to get where she is today. 

“I’ve had burnout from taking so many AP classes and also having the Youth Symphony and my own personal expectations on myself. There were a lot of times where instead of sleeping I would decide to study until like 3 a.m. or I have to practice for something. [I had to] recover from burnout and try to figure out how to balance being a student, a musician and a regular teenager,” Cogger said. 

People process stress in different ways, for Cogger, she says stress can motivate her to get work done. 

“I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights. I do think stress can be a motivator, because if you’re stressed out about something and you’re constantly thinking about it, it can give you the motivation you need to finish it up so you won’t have to worry about that anymore,” Cogger said. 

Cogger believes that your attitude is more important than your grades when it comes to being a Top 20 senior. Being kind to others and getting involved with your community will get you into consideration for the list. 

“[Top 20 seniors] is more than about having good grades, try to be kind to your peers and form good relationships with your teachers. Even if you don’t make the list, it’s not the biggest deal because it’s only 20 kids that get picked and I feel really lucky to have gotten picked to get this,” Cogger said.  

Lastly, Cogger tells others to focus more on their mental and physical health rather than their grades. 

“Don’t work too hard. Obviously work hard, but I think sleep is more important than getting 100% on a test and you are more than a score on a test,” Cogger said.  

This story is part of a collection of stories featuring some of the class of 2023 top 20 seniors. Read the other stories here:

Senior Perseveres Through Stress