Student Sample: Personal Writing

Michael Jacobsohn

The Harmony of Life

I am first in my class, an all-state football player, weigh 220 pounds, and can lift up small cars, yet I have a secret which I have kept hidden for years. It rages within me, yearning to break free and reveal itself in both shame and splendor. I can contain it no longer. I must shed my inhibitions and proclaim aloud, “So help me God, I love musicals!”

Until now, only my family and those who have had the experience of calling my house in the midst of one of my renditions of the confrontation between Javert and Valjean from Les Misérables knew about my passion for musical theater. For years I have endured ridicule from my sisters and their friends who have overheard me belting out the lyrics to “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof while in the shower. Ever since my first musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, seven years ago, I have been obsessed with the telling of stories through melody and verse. My heart leaps when I see that Phantom of the Opera is coming to the local theater, or when Guys and Dolls is appearing on the television at one in the morning.

Music is the most beautiful and powerful way to relate emotion. Thus, the entire structure of a story is enhanced by presenting action and dialogue through song. The topic of a story can deal with anything from religion, such as Godspell, to a ravenous man-eating plant (Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors), but no matter which, music brings to life a story line and places a production forever in one’s head by providing harmony to be continually associated with it.

Musicals also provide me with an emotional outlet. When enthralled by a member of the opposite sex, I am wont to burst into a performance of “Maria” from West Side Story. After an exhausting football practice, my lips chant “I’m Free” from the rock opera Tommy, and at my desk, feeling haughty after getting the highest grade on a calculus test, I sing quietly, “I am the very model of a modern Major-General,” from The Pirates of Penzance. I can delve into the recesses of my mind and produce a piece fitting for any occasion, and I take pride in this ability.

While I was preparing this confession, a less musically-inclined friend of mine happened upon a rough draft of the revelation. As he heartily laughed at me, he asked, “Can this be? Can the fact that Michael Jacobsohn is both an academic and football colossus and a lover of musicals be reconciled?” I replied, “The bald, fat Marlon Brando of Apocalypse Now is the same Marlon Brando in Guys and Dolls. Just as Kurtz and Sky Masterson are one and the same, so does my love for musicals reconcile itself with the other facets of my personality. It is unwise to stereotype, just as it is unwise to typecast.” Inside, I shall sing forever.


This was written when Jacobsohn was a senior in high school, hoping to attend Harvard. And how did he do? Was he the star of the musical stage or the football field? Here’s the rest of the story, from Harvard Magazine. (Scroll down to “Making Adjustments.”)


Jacobsohn, Michael. “The Harmony of Life.” Welcome to Harvard Magazine, Harvard University, Sept. 1996, harvardmagazine.com/1996/09/essay.jacobsohn.html. Accessed 31 Dec. 2017.