In a night of honors, teachers’ "thank yous" praised Wadena-Deer Creek seniors for their leadership in another unusual year impacted by the pandemic. About 100 middle and high school students in art, band, Business Professionals of America (BPA), choir, drama and Knowledge Bowl received awards and appreciation on May 16.

As a previous student of the fine arts, Wadena Rotary Club president and co-owner of Schuller Family Funeral Homes Joe Schuller highlighted the unchanging purpose of the event despite the changed format. Students could have up to three tickets for the in-person event. The Rotary Fine Arts program was not held in 2020.

About 100 students involved in art, band, Business Professionals of America, choir, drama and Knowledge Bowl line the Wadena-Deer Creek gym floor on May 16, 2021.
Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal
About 100 students involved in art, band, Business Professionals of America, choir, drama and Knowledge Bowl line the Wadena-Deer Creek gym floor on May 16, 2021. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

While students have been “hunkered” in the band room for the school year, as band director Lisa Weniger said, seniors Owen Guo, Ben Keppers, Jacob Lepper and Tony Kreklau performed “Yakety Sax” for attendees. Both band and choir will have their first live concert for a limited audience on May 24. The last live choir concert was in December 2019.

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High school band students received letter awards and senior band students were awarded the Director’s Award. As a participant in the all-state concert virtual recording, junior Johanna Brunsberg received a participation plaque from the Minnesota Music Educators Association.

One of the big honors of the night went to Kreklau for his quiet manor and outstanding music resume, as Weniger said. He said winning the award is a “big honor.” His sister and mom also previously won the John Philip Sousa award. Kreklau has been a saxophone player since the fifth grade.

“I loved going and playing in the honor bands, going to different towns and playing with different people. Meeting new people, making connections that’s always fun,” Kreklau said.

Kreklau is also involved in choir, Knowledge Bowl and BPA.

“I just love being in activities with my friends, basically, as much as I can it’s better because the more I’m in the more fun I’ll have,” Kreklau said.

With 100 choir students, fifth to 12th grade choir director Mike Ortmann said the first half of the year meant meeting with 25 students at a time to follow guidelines. The students stepped up “constantly,” he said.

Senior Emma Bushinger shared the second musical performance of the event with the song "Bist Du Bei Mir." She also sang this song for her North Dakota State University audition, where she plans to study music. For her loyalty and commitment to choir, Bushinger received the National School Choral Award.

With a mixture of virtual and live performances, drama director and English teacher Beth Hawkins described drama as perseverance plus joy. She said students wanted to run the lights, be on the stage and bring the audience laughs whether they needed to wear masks or not.

During the art portion of the evening, middle/high school art teacher Laurie Kopischke-Pulju recognized seniors Jaden Herr, Myja Nemeth and Hailey Peterson for pushing boundaries and highlighted their different types of art mediums.

Middle/high school art teacher Laurie Kopischke-Pulju recognized three seniors for their artwork, including Hailey Peterson. Attendees could view a selection of their art in the commons.
Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal
Middle/high school art teacher Laurie Kopischke-Pulju recognized three seniors for their artwork, including Hailey Peterson. Attendees could view a selection of their art in the commons. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

District media specialist Loni Niles shared about the growing of WDC’s BPA over the last five years, with 23 members this year and 22 who advanced to state and nationals. BPA advisor Shayne Haustveit was unable to attend.

While about half the number of students were involved in Knowledge Bowl, Niles described the 30 students involved as “very dedicated.” All the student teams lettered in the competitions.

In closing, Schuller said the arts will be a part of the students’ existence for the rest of their lives.