The many months of preparation and fundraising paid off for Waupaca High School (WHS) choral students.
During their trip to New York City, where they competed at the Heritage Festivals of music, the school’s concert choir, chamber choir and vocal jazz ensemble all received first-place gold awards.
In addition, the vocal jazz ensemble received the festival’s top honor of Outstanding Choral Ensemble, and WHS senior Kristen Fuss received an outstanding soloist award for her solo in “All That Hath Life and Breath, Praise Ye the Lord” by Rene’ Clausen. It was among the songs the concert choir performed during its March 24 concert here.
“This is a first for WHS,” Dan Wolfgram said of the award that Fuss received for her solo. “We’ve never received that award before. We were just ecstatic.”
Wolfgram is the director of choral activities at WHS and was joined in accompanying the students to New York by choral director Kristen Sporakowski.
Of the Outstanding Choral Ensemble award that the vocal jazz ensemble received, he said, “The last time one of our groups won that was in 2003.”
The vocal jazz ensemble competed against 28 choirs to receive the festival’s top honor.
Wolfgram said the ensemble also received the Adjudicator’s Award. “You must have an average score of 95 out of 100 from each of the three judges,” he said.
The competition took place on Friday, April 8, at Riverside Church on Manhattan’s upper west side. A panel of three judges adjudicated the choirs, basing their decisions on different musical criteria demonstrated by the choirs in concert. Judges also spent time with the choirs in a mini-clinic session.
A total of 83 students made the trip, traveling on two coach buses with Wolfgram and Sporakowski; chaperons Leighton and Mary Trice, Chris and Terri Fuss, and Casey and Deb Plunkett; and accompanist Wanda Eikenbary.
They left on Wednesday, April 6. When the buses arrived back in Waupaca on Tuesday, April 12, the Waupaca Fire Department greeted them, leading the way as the buses traveled to the high school.
Fundraising will soon begin for the 2013 trip.
“We will start fundraising next year for the following year,” he said. “No funds come from the school district to pay for this trip.”
The trip costs about $60,000 or approximately $750 per student.
Wolfgram said there was one other high school from Wisconsin there. The cost for New Berlin Eisenhower High School was double the cost for Waupaca, because the students from New Berlin flew to New York, he said.
For Waupaca students, the $60,000 cost is covered through fundraising, donations and student contributions.
“Six students received scholarships and donations from businesses or from people who wanted to support the kids,” he said. “To date, we have never left anyone behind because of a lack of funds.”
The trip also included a performance at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, which is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. The cathedral’s main aisle is two football fields in length, and the Statue of Liberty can fit inside it. Construction began in 1898 and has yet to be completed, Wolfgram said.
The reverberation, or echo, is 10 seconds in length, he said.
For the students, this spring has been a busy one.
Over the course of several weeks, the students competed in the district Solo-Ensemble contest, performed in the spring concert and then went to New York for the festival competition.
“It was a lot of music and a lot of preparation at once,” he said.
Now, the students are preparing for the Senior Tribute Concert, which will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 22, in the high school performing arts center. The concert is free, with seating on a first-come, first-served basis.
Sporakowski said they are fortunate to be part of a community that supports the arts and music in its schools.
District Administrator David Poeschl said, “The School District of Waupaca is proud of our high school vocal music students and their teachers who work so hard to be good ambassadors for the district wherever they perform. Mr. Wolfgram and Ms. Sporakowski hold our students to high standards both musically and behaviorally.
“Their performance in New York is the culmination of years and years of devotion to music excellence beginning in the primary grades. One can’t help but appreciate the excellent instruction these students received from their elementary and middle school teachers along the way. The School District of Waupaca’s commitment to music education makes results like this possible.
“Mr. Wolfgram, Ms. Sporakowski and the vocal music students are to be commended for their talent and hard work. It continues to amaze me how the teachers are able to maintain a consistent high level of performance from year to year when they lose approximately 25 percent of their students to graduation each year.”
Wolfgram said one-third of the students at WHS are in the music department and that the numbers for next year are up.
“We are fortunate as a school district of our size to have the caliber of groups and the support from our school board, administration and community to value music now and in the years to come,” he said. “Most schools this size do not have the support of the community or the administration. We’re unlike almost any school that I know of, as far as the enrollment in the music program and support of the community. It’s truly an honor and a pleasure to work in this community and to have the support from all the stakeholders.”
Both teachers said that one of the greatest things about the trip to New York is how life changing it is for students.
Wolfgram said that regardless of whether students return there someday, it helps them realize that there is a world outside of Waupaca.
“It provides the opportunity to push for more in their lives, to be more, to see more. It helps shape how they can be as individuals,” he said.
Sporakowski said they hope to continue providing educational opportunities for the students while also being a liaison to public outreach in the community.