The Waupaca High School Performing Arts Center now has a hearing loop and updated sound equipment.
It was made possible by $35,000 in funding from Farmers State Bank, First National Bank, Vic and Chris Anthony, Bob and Sandy Wagner, Waupaca Foundry, John and Carolyn Gusmer, Don and Faye Sorenson, Ryan Delaney, Neuville Motors, Don and Anne O'Dell and Premier Community Bank, with the Waupaca School District also committing funding toward the overall cost of the project.
The hearing loop and updated equipment were installed a couple weeks ago.
The high school's original system was installed when the school was built. WHS opened its new doors in the fall of 2000.
"I would compare it to using a computer from 13 years ago," said choir instructor Dan Wolfgram. "We were experiencing several different problems."
One of them was an aging technology.
"Some of the units began to malfunction. When the technology was malfunctioning or breaking due to wear and tear, it didn't make sense to replace it with the same, knowing that in a few years, we would have to do something larger," Wolfgram said. "The advent of digital television wiped out the whole bandwidth that we were using for our wireless microphones. It limited us to how long we could use it with the existing system."
Several years ago, local resident Chris Anthony approached Wolfgram and asked whether the school could district could afford adding a hearing loop system for the senior population.
"The final piece," Wolfgram said, "Ryan Delaney. He came to see the 'Wizard of Oz' and said he was not satisfied with how the sound system was performing. He said, 'If you don't ask, you'll never know.' He nudged me to contact the stakeholders about underwriting it."
Wolfgram said the timing was right for the project.
"We augmented our wireless microphone capacity to 16. We were able before to run 10. We converted from analog to digital. We were also able to take in some of our existing gear toward credit toward the purchase of the new technology," he said.
For those who have a hearing aid with a T-coil, the system's hearing loop means they will now be able to walk into the PAC and with a click of a tiny switch, the hearing aid will switch from microphone mode to T-coil mode.
Wolfgram said for those whose hearing aids are not equipped with T-coils, the school has four newly purchased headsets. Earbuds are also available.
The push to install the hearing loop and upgrade the sound equipment came from community members who wanted to help.
Since the installation of the equipment was completed, ongoing training has been taking place with the high school's music and theater departments, as well as with members of the Waupaca Community Theater.
"I think this upgrade will benefit the students, benefit the community at large, benefit our senior population and our students going into digital technology," Wolfgram said. "I thank the school district and the businsesses for ensuring that all of the work that we do on stage is going to be heard."
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