The ArtStar award,, sponsored by Jayhawk Dental and The World Company, is given monthly to a senior at a high school in Lawrence who excels in the fine arts.
Nine winners will be selected throughout the school year, with an overall winner selected at the end of the year. That overall winner also will receive a scholarship.
Nominations must be made by art teachers. To nominate a student, call Terry Rombeck, Journal-World features and special sections editor, at 832-7145 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's hard for Katie and Maggie Burk to explain just how being a twin has helped their musical development.
After all, they've never known it any other way.
"You have a study buddy, a practice buddy, but you also have a competitor - someone who will push you," Maggie Burk says.
That competition has helped the Free State High School seniors gain recognition as two of the city's top choral music students. And it helped them become co-winners of this school year's first ArtStar award.
The award, sponsored by The World Company and Jayhawk Dental, recognizes top-performing fine arts seniors at Lawrence high schools.
The Burks grew up in a musical family - their father, Steve, is music director at Grace Cathedral in Topeka. When the twins were 4, he gave them each the choice of playing the piano or the violin. They each chose piano.
The girls soon learned they each had perfect pitch - the ability to determine a particular note being played.
They have sung in choirs and bands at Grace Cathedral, in the Lawrence Children's Choir and now are in the top choirs at Free State. Each was selected for the prestigious all-state choir last year.
"Maggie and Katie Burk are just exceptional human beings, to start with," says Hilary Morton, Free State choir teacher. "They've been immersed in music pretty much since birth, and they just ooze musicality."
In addition to performing, the sisters each have begun composing music - they especially are enamored with Anglican choral styles - and are taking an independent study course in which they help conduct their school's Women's Choir.
Katie and Maggie Burk say they were always pushed by having a musical partner.
"It's more of an expectation that one of us will reach something and the other one will get there," Maggie Burk says. "We don't lag behind each other. We always try to help the other one catch up when something doesn't happen."
Adds Katie Burk: "It's kind of that synergy - but add the 'tw,' twynergy - is what happened to us. "You can sing in the car ... and give harmony to the melody. But it's way more fun to sing in three parts than in two, if you know what I mean."
The twins only remember one time when their competition led to hurt feelings. It was a piano competition at Kansas University in eighth grade that Maggie Burk won.
"She was really, really upset for a couple days after that," Maggie Burk remembers. "But she got over it. That's about the only time I ever beat her in anything."
Katie Burk agrees that was a painful experience at the time.
"I was a little upset," she says. "And when I say a little, I mean a lot."
Steve Burk says he thinks his daughters are where they are today, musically speaking, because of the twin connection.
"It's not competition in a negative way," he says. "I think it was competition in a very helpful way. They've always been that way. They have the secret language going on between them - the twin thing. ... If there's a challenge, it's usually that one of them sees a door that's opened up and they want to walk through it, too."
The Burk twins are hoping to attend St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., which is renowned for its choral music department. As their musical abilities continue to develop, they say they expect to help each other as they go down their own paths.
"We want to try different things," Katie Burk says. "We'll see how it goes."
Morton, the choir teacher, says she's already seeing the sisters' growth through their years at Free State.
"Vocally, they're both very different," Morton says. "I've known them since their sophomore year, and they've grown a lot since then. They've turned out to be very different people and comfortable with not only their bodies and themselves but with their musical component. They've become their own."