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Campus connection: volume I

A Q&A with some of the newsmakers on campus

January 12, 2016

Counselor’s corner

Counselor Alma Campo is responsible for students with a last name that starts between S and Z.

Counselor Alma Campo is responsible for students with a last name that starts between S and Z.

Merry Moch

Merry Moch

Counselor Alma Campo is responsible for students with a last name that starts between S and Z.

Having freshmen coming in and seniors getting ready to graduate, counselors have a lot to handle.

Wingspan’s Prachurjya Shreya sat down with counselor Alma Campo in this edition of “Get to know”to discuss many aspects of the student body.

Wingspan: What is your advice to freshmen this year?

Campo: “My advice to freshmen would be to just get a system down that works for you. An organizational system and time management; something that is going to help you succeed because that is something you will carry on for the rest of the years. Try to do the best you can in 9th grade because these grades start counting in 9th grade and that’s where your GPA begins to accumulate.”

Wingspan: When did you first realize your passion for helping others?

Campo: “I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. But when I was teaching, that’s when I knew that I wanted to pursue counseling and get my counseling degree. So, I guess that you can say it was probably around my third year of teaching that I decided I wanted to pursue that. Now, I have been a counselor for almost sixteen years.”

Wingspan: What makes you want to work here on campus?

Campo: “Working at Liberty is very rewarding. I think it i the student drive to succeed and just diversity at Liberty. All of those different things combined makes me very happy to be here.”

Wingspan: What would you recommend to students dealing with stress?

Campo: “Of course that is something that we also see working at Liberty. A lot of students do because it is so academically challenging. Students, I think get challenged amongst each other also so therefore, it leads to stress. Students dealing with stress, I would just say to try and find a positive outlet. Anything that can help you when dealing with stress. Find a good friend to talk to or find an adult to talk to. Listen to music. Go for a run. Do whatever it is that can help you kind of decompress.”

Wingspan: What would you do if one of your students wanted to drop out of high school?

Campo: “That has happened before. I try to talk to the student about what their options are if they don’t drop out. But ultimately, it’s up to the parent and the student to decide if that’s the route. There are many different circumstances and sometimes the students that need to drop out are for other reasons. Sometimes it is because they have to get to work for family. To help their family out. It’s so many different circumstances so it just kind of depends on the situation.”

Wingspan: How do you feel about bullying?

Campo: “Well, I don’t like bullying. But of course, we all know it happens for many different things. What we always try to tell the students is to notify an adult. That way we know what is occurring and we can put a stop to it. So, anytime that we can train somebody to report and do all the necessary things then hopefully things like that will minimize a little.”

Wingspan: On the subject of bullying, how do you feel when you help a student out with bullying and/or in general?

Campo: “It is a rewarding feeling. Sometimes though when a student comes with the initial complaint, we ask them to let us know if something continues or the behavior continues. Not all the times do the students let us know so we assume things are going good now and they always aren’t. This is something we also try to encourage students to continue telling us. Overall, it is a rewarding feeling though.”

Wingspan: What are your pet peeves?

Campo: “My pet peeves are when students procrastinate. When they procrastinate, and it becomes an emergency for them and then they expect me to drop everything I am doing to help them out. That is one of my biggest pet peeves.”

Wingspan: How has this job impacted your life outside of school?

Campo: “You know like any other job, sometimes in school counseling so many things happen. Not everything is positive. Sometimes things are a little negative. Sometimes we have some sucidicial things that we wish didn’t happen but they do. So outside of school, depending on how my day goes here, that does impact my day at home as well because you know sometimes it is very draining emotionally and  physically. But there’s also a lot of really positives about it as well.”

Wingspan: On the positive side, how does it make you feel when students graduate?

Campo: “It’s an awesome feeling. We get to attend every graduation and we are on the opposite side of the stage when the students come down. We are the first ones to get to congratulate them and so it is a very exciting feeling.”

Wingspan: Last but not least, what can we do as a whole to improve? What can we improve on socially?
Campo: “I think Liberty does a really good job already. I sponsor the club “Pulse”, which is all about connectivity and getting connected and so I think we try a lot to try to include students in every aspect of everything we do. If anything, it would be a lot more of that. Just making Liberty’s overall atmosphere a very welcoming one.”

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Fisher helps guide Red Rhythm

The Red Rhythm dance team performs at halftime of a football game.

The Red Rhythm dance team performs at halftime of a football game.

provided by Red Rhythm

provided by Red Rhythm

The Red Rhythm dance team performs at halftime of a football game.

Varsity football is not just about the game on the field Friday night as band and cheerleaders pump up the crowd. Right there with them is the Red Rhythm dancing their way into your heart.

Wingspan’s Dea Divi sat down with Red Rhythm’s assistant director Jenna Fisher to talk about her dance career and what’s upcoming for Red Rhythm.

Wingspan: What events is the dance program here going to participate in? How do you decide what events to do?

Fisher: “We have the Spring Show and three pep rallies and Red Rhythm is at all of the football games. We have a schedule. All of the events are a tradition. We do them every year.”

Wingspan: Where can students get more information and buy their tickets?

Fisher: “Tickets for review will go on early spring for the spring show and you can get more information at”

Wingspan: How long have you been dancing? What made you want to teach rather than become a professional?

Fisher: “Since I was two but I don’t want to say how many years it’s been because it makes me sound old. Injuries prevented me to do it myself.”

Wingspan: Was there ever a moment in your life when you thought “I hate dance” or felt like this was not the perfect match for you?

Fisher: “Yes, I took the whole year after senior year off from dancing and regretted it.’

Wingspan: If you had to choose one style of dance to teach for the rest of your life,which one would it be? Why did you choose hip-hop?

Fisher: “Hip-hop because it is my favorite.I was also on a competition team when I was a teenager.”

Wingspan: What was the first type of dance you were introduced to? When and by who?

Fisher: “Ballet and tap. My mom shoved me into the class because whenever my sister was at dance class I was the brat in the lobby screaming about how I wanted to dance too.”

Wingspan: What are some things that you noticed here other that is different from schools that you have been to?

Fisher: “Rules are different,in a good way.Let you do more because they trust you and no one is pushing the boundaries and so they let you all have more freedom.”

Wingspan: What is your favorite “cool” dance move, like the whip and the nae nae? Why? Which one are you best at?

Fisher: “The nae nae because I was asked to do it a lot I guess. The whip.”

Wingspan: Dancing shows have been popular on TV for a while now, where do you think dance fits in today’s American culture?
Fisher: “It is more popular from when I was growing up, there weren’t any tv shows.Now it become mainstream and brought the younger generation up to want to dance.”

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Band getting ready for contest season

From marching in the streets as part of a fundraiser to performing at halftime of football games, the band has a full schedule in the fall. Helping to lead the band are the drum majors who act as a intermediary between the band and the band directors.

From marching in the streets as part of a fundraiser to performing at halftime of football games, the band has a full schedule in the fall. Helping to lead the band are the drum majors who act as a intermediary between the band and the band directors.

Sarah Philips

Sarah Philips

From marching in the streets as part of a fundraiser to performing at halftime of football games, the band has a full schedule in the fall. Helping to lead the band are the drum majors who act as a intermediary between the band and the band directors.

Contest season is coming up for the school’s marching band. During the month of October, the band members, color guard, and staff will be competing in various competitions every Saturday.

Wingspan sat down with one of the four drum majors, Landon Shumway, to  find out what’s going on with band.

Wingspan: What instrument do you play?

Shumway: “I play the french horn with the Wind Ensemble in the spring, but during marching season I am a drum major.”

Wingspan: Many people are not very familiar with what a drum major is. Could you explain the roles of a drum major?

Shumway: “A drum major is one of the top student leaders in the band program, and they act as a middle person between the students and the directors. They are given many responsibilities, from controlling rehearsal flow to teaching marching to new students. During the band’s marching show, the drum majors conduct on podiums to keep the band in time while they are spread across a football field.”

Wingspan: What is the band doing to get ready for the upcoming contests?

Shumway: “We rehearse three days a week after school to perfect our marching show, and we perform the show at halftime during football games to gain experience in performing in front of a large audience. Outside of rehearsals and games, extra work is put in by individuals, squads, sections, and the leadership team to perfect personal technique and maintain accountability to the rest of the band.”

Wingspan: How long are rehearsals? And when does the band start practice during the summer?

Shumway: “Rehearsals are from 4:40-7:00 p.m. after school. A month before school even started, the band was up at the school practicing from 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, giving up time during the summer to start working on the show.”

Wingspan: What is the show title of the marching show that the band is working on this year? (Title, what the music consists of, etc.) What else is there to know about the show?

Shumway: “This year, our show is titled Unbridled. It’s about having a free, unbreakable spirit, and it goes hand in hand with our band’s progression. With new uniforms, a new look, and a new sound, the band is proving to be unstoppable.”

Wingspan: Which is the most important contest coming up? Why?

Shumway: “The most important competition this year is Area because our placement determines if we make it to State Marching Contest. State years only come every other year, so this year is a big deal.”

Wingspan: How has the band improved?

Shumway: “At this point, the band has been working together for almost two months. Their marching has improved tremendously, but more importantly, so has their character. They’re learning the importance of working as a team, and they’re starting to understand the value of sacrifice and servant leadership.”

Wingspan: What are some struggles that you, the other band members, or staff experience during marching season?

Shumway: “First, we all have to face the afternoon heat in rehearsals. Sometimes we get a break with nice weather, but most the time it’s pretty hot outside. Another struggle is just overall tiredness. Marching season is demanding, and balancing schoolwork and other things can be exhausting and takes away from time to sleep. However, these challenges are ultimately beneficial because they force the band to pull together to overcome trials. It’s all about teamwork, and the struggles we face help develop accountability toward one another to lift each other up.”

Wingspan: What are some of the most critical factors band members have to be aware of in order to meet the overall standards of marching band?

Shumway: “More than the marching component or the playing component, the band sets a standard of character. This is something that cannot be easily taught in a simple classroom setting. Marching and playing can be taught, but becoming a better person requires experience in working with others. That is what we do in band. We help each other become better people and pursue excellence in everything that we do.”

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Choir readies for all-state auditions

For nine years choir director Bruce Stevenson has been working with high school students. This week he is helping them prepare for All-State auditions on Thursday.

For nine years choir director Bruce Stevenson has been working with high school students. This week he is helping them prepare for All-State auditions on Thursday.

Sarah Swinford

Sarah Swinford

For nine years choir director Bruce Stevenson has been working with high school students. This week he is helping them prepare for All-State auditions on Thursday.

Just a few weeks into the school year, choir students are already diving straight into All-State choir music and auditions on Thursday.

Wingspan recently sat down with choir director Bruce Stevenson to talk about the details of All-State, as well as his teaching processes and beliefs.

Wingspan: When are All-State auditions?

Stevenson: “They are October 1st and region auditions are October 5th.”

Wingspan: How does the All-State process work?

Stevenson: “The process works for All-State that students sing in a blind audition before five judges who they don’t see. The students have been told a couple days earlier what they’re supposed to sing, so they have a couple days after having learned all the music to really prepare those sections. Then they sing to a taped piano accompaniment at one excerpt each out of three pieces of music for these five judges who evaluate them and score them.”

Wingspan: What is the general type of music that the audition requires the students to learn?

Stevenson: “I would call it very high level choral music. It’s the kinds of things that very advanced choirs in college would do or high school. Classical music sometimes, modern compositions, but a very high level of choral training and rehearsal is required.”

Wingspan: Since the music is so advanced, what are your expectations regarding the student’s success in the audition?

Stevenson: “Oh, that’s a good question. My expectations, first of all, are in one way very general. I expect that those who audition will be there because they really wanna make a serious effort of auditioning. I am reasonably sure that we will have students who will make the region choir which is made up of our region. Frisco, Carrollton, Lewisville, The Colony and so forth. It’s a really good choral experience that takes place in November when the region choir spends a weekend singing together and rehearsing and performing. I would love to see some students that would get into the pre-area audition and move beyond that because that’s, like, the next level up to where you get to that point. If you get out of area, you are actually in the all-state choir so it’s kind of a multi-tiered thing and it’s always our objective to have students place as highly in that process and do as well as they can every audition.”


Wingspan: What is your favorite thing about teaching choir?

Stevenson: “I would say my favorite thing, I have two favorite things if that’s possible. One of them is kind of that experience when a choir comes together and really gets that something. That moment where everyone goes ‘Oh, that’s how it’s supposed to sound like!’ Eyes light up and you kind of think ‘Okay, we’re really starting to get this.’ The other part of it really isn’t musical. It’s the fact that I see a lot of students in my classes for four years in a row. English teachers see a freshman class, then they see the next freshman class and so forth. I get to see students for four years in a row. I get to know them, we share a lot of life together. So I think it really has to do with the relationships. The fact that we really become well acquainted with each other over four years because music is emotional and there’s that connection of emotional things and experiences we share together. Any choral singer, I think, kind of knows that experience where you have a concert and you just have this high because you pulled it off and everybody worked as a team. It’s really a very wonderful thing for me to know that the students I’ve got this year I’ll have as sophomores, juniors and seniors. When they leave, it’s really an important part of my heart and my life. I’m a very relational person, I love people and so that’s a real huge thing for me.”

Wingspan: How long have you been teaching choir?

Stevenson: “This is my 9th year. Well, my ninth year in school but then 30 years directing youth choirs and adult choirs and orchestras and things before that too.”

Wingspan: Were there any moments where you doubted your musical ability growing up? What advice do you have for students struggling with the same thing now?

Stevenson: “Oh, that’s a really good question too. Music is the kind of thing that some people do very naturally and do well naturally. Some people really have to work at it. They say when writing a piece that writing and composing a piece of music is ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration. Very, very few people just are naturally those who excel at it. So I think my challenge is to take what you’ve got, take what you can do, and then build on it and improve it. Have lessons, go hear other choirs sing, go hear other artists sing, practice your craft whether it’s singing, playing, or doing something like conducting, writing, whatever it is. Have people listen to you sing or perform or have them look at your music that you’ve written and give you constructive critique on it so that you can say ‘Okay, I see what I didn’t do well on and I know how I can do that better. Even the world’s greatest performers in any genre didn’t get there without practice. They all had to put the sweat into it and, you know, the time and the practice in it. I heard a story about the guitarist Eric Clapton one time. He spent one whole week working on a four measure phrase. So that every time he could play it, it would be perfect. And I thought ‘Okay. One week on four measures, that’s a lot of repetition.’ But that’s how the best ones get to be the best ones. Even if they’re really loaded with a lot of natural talent, they still make that talent work for them by practicing, by getting better. Diligently working at that.”

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Debate sets high goals

Debate competitors are preparing for future competitions through research and goal setting.

Debate competitors are preparing for future competitions through research and goal setting.

Parker Butler

Parker Butler

Debate competitors are preparing for future competitions through research and goal setting.

The debate team is hoping to up its game this year. With that in mind, Wingspan’s Sarah Swinford talked to senior Eunise Chen, about her ideas and experiences about debate class and the team.

Wingspan: Do you have high standards in debate this year?

Chen: “I think that I do expect a little higher standards than last year because last year we didn’t get to compete as much so I do expect a little bit more from my debaters this year; and I do see a lot of talent and a lot of qualities that I would like to see that become. I would like to see people become into really mature debaters.”

Wingspan: What are some of your goals for this year?

Chen: “A couple of my goals this year are to definitely attend more competitions, maybe about, I’d say about, eight to ten this year but if that goal is not met that is totally fine. The most important thing is to establish that debate is a family; like the team spirit and helping one another prepare for cases will really increase our depth of knowledge per topic and just really have like the spirit of like a family, to have that friendship, to have that connection and network.”

Wingspan: Why do you think some people in the past took debate as a “blow-off” class?

Chen: “People have taken debate as a blow-off class because I feel like the leaders haven’t really been there for the students. I feel like in the past our officers have been sort of slack because their seniors, and because they are seniors, they don’t really care so much and they’re like: I’m leaving man. So, that’s why they don’t really care; so, it has turn into a class in which people just do their homework, but that has been changed last year and it’s even, this policy is evolving even more this year.”

Wingspan: Since tryouts have just ended and you are one of the judges, do you see potential in this year’s official debate team?

Chen: “I see so much potential, I was actually just talking to Ms. Maier and our officers this year that their are so many good debaters and I’m so excited, I’m so excited for our bimonthly, tryouts every two months, I’m so excited to have new people in varsity every two months to compete. Oh man, I’m so excited.”

Wingspan: Is there anything that is going to be improved in debate team from last year?

Chen: “I would definitely say work ethic and preparation. I think last year a lot of what we were doing was kind of last minute, you know, the night before pulling an all-nighter; really being wiped out the next day. I would like to see that changed because that’s really terrible on our physical health, our mental heath, and honestly, when we get to competition, having to have pulled an all-nighter, is really terrible for our performance. So, honestly, the work ethic, the preparation, and the practice we do in class.”

Wingspan: Now, you said that you don’t know what teams they are on yet, but do you see a lot of potential for a certain type of debate?

Chen: “Honestly, I am really excited for CX debate. So, policy debate. I think that the way lots of people think in our class is very technical and very: If A, then B, then B, than C, that way A is C; or just something like that. And that kind of mentality is really beneficial in CX debate and so I believe CX will really grow this year. It’s definitely one of the harder topics, harder forms of debate to teach, and to get across to people, but it’s worth the time and I, I look forward to seeing that grow.”

Wingspan: What essential skills does debate give a person?

Chen: “I feel like debate honestly, it encompasses so many skills. So in terms of academics, let’s just say that, in terms of academics, it really helps you develop your critical thinking skills and that’s so important. Especially in English class, when you’re having socratic seminars and whatnot, and when you’re having conversation with other people you can quickly be able to react, quickly be able to carry the conversation, that’s definitely really important. Second, in the educational part, is the professionalism. So, as you become a debater, you learn to speak in a way that honestly puts you on sort of another pedestal from other high school students. You learn to be able to public speak, you learn to be able to carry yourself, you learn all this information that typical high schoolers wouldn’t know. In terms of socially, he professionalism you develop in the way of speaking to adults that really let them feel impressed with you; and so this helps you in your interviews, this helps you when you’re meeting new people, when you’re talking to your people, when you’re talking to people older than you this really helps. Not only that, but you also make a lot of new friends when you’re at the debate competition, despite them being your competitors and your enemies, or whatnot, you do make new friendships and when you do see them at new, other competitions you’re like: Oh hey! I remember you from last time, good luck this time! So, that really helps.”

Wingspan: If someone joins debate with a lot of extracurricular activities, how does the debate team work around them?

Chen: “So, in the past we’ve tried to accommodate with people  in like DECA, HOSA, and all these really time consuming activities. For this year, and last year, we’ve actually told people that they couldn’t be able to go to competition if they have too many extra curricular activities and we’re going to be seeing whether or not this, the other extracurricular activities, impacts your research and your time to be able to focus on debate; and it really sucks for not only yourself, but for the team. If you’re unable to prepare, it gives us a really bad image so, we will most likely not let you compete at least until you tell us your priority. So, it’s either between debate or DECA or HOSA or one of those really time consuming clubs.”

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Drama Club fuels thespians’ creative fires

The Drama Club meets Wednesday at 8:30 in room F107. The Drama Club is headed by theater teacher Stephanie Winters.

The Drama Club meets Wednesday at 8:30 in room F107. The Drama Club is headed by theater teacher Stephanie Winters.

The Drama Club meets Wednesday at 8:30 in room F107. The Drama Club is headed by theater teacher Stephanie Winters.

Drama club is an organization that builds strong relationships through bonding artistic activities and performances. Although drama club may catch the eyes of theatre students on campus, anyone who is new to the performing world is welcome to join and maybe even gain a new interest.

Wingspan sat down with drama club director and theatre teacher, Stephanie Winters, to get a better insight into the program.

Wingspan: What is drama club going to be all about? Is it going to be based off theatre?

Winters: “We base a lot of the events that we do off of theatre, but we also do a lot of team building events, we see movies, we go to dance things. We try to do as many social events as we can.”

Wingspan: Can anyone join the drama club?

Winters: “Yes, anybody. You don’t have to be in theatre. You can come on in whenever you want.”

Wingspan: How do you choose the officers?

Winters: “Well we let whoever wants to run, can run and then they typically stand up in front of the group and say a short speech of their experience and what they want to do for the group and then we do an anonymous vote where everybody puts their head down and then raise our hand for each person and we just vote in the morning.”

Wingspan: Do your students help you figure out what the plays will be like?

Winters: “They don’t, I help choose the plays, but they come to me with suggestions occasionally, but most of the time they’re looking at what role will be good for them and I have to look at what role will be good for the department, so I end up making the play decisions, but they make most of the decisions for the club like what they want to do.”

Wingspan: What are your students doing right now in theatre?

Winters: “Right now my Theatre 1 is working on performances of memory. My theatre 2 is working on a show called the Laramie Project, which is incredible so we’re going to get that up on the stage, and then my theatre 3, 4 they’re working more skill, theatre, acting skill, and then my production class is doing a directing project, and then of course my tech theatre is learning how to draw.”

Wingspan: For tech theatre, anyone can join?

Winters: “Once the show gets rolling and start doing rehearsals, we also have after school tech rehearsals, too, where people come in, and build the scenes, and work on costumes, and makeup and things like that, which is cool.”

Wingspan: When you guys elect new officers, do the old officers still have importance?

Winters: “Oh gosh, a lot of our officers are such leaders in the department and I’m pretty sure that, I think all of our officers from last year, probably two, graduated, and I think the two that are still here were elected into other positions and I think all of our officers are important and we still miss the ones that graduated so we have so many leaders.”

Wingspan: Is there anything you would like to say to get theatre out there?

Winters: “Encore is a great group. We work closely with the International Thespian Society, which is our other group here on campus for drama. We do a lot of stuff with the community. The first thing we’re going to do this year is the trick or treat so kids can eat campaign and we’ve been asked to raise over a thousand pounds of food for the Frisco shelter.”

Drama club meetings are every Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. in room F107. Anyone is welcomed to join.

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The campus health care specialist

The nurse's office sits empty in this picture, but school nurse Emily Mikeska is one of the most visited staff members on campus.

The nurse's office sits empty in this picture, but school nurse Emily Mikeska is one of the most visited staff members on campus.

Haley Flores

Haley Flores

The nurse's office sits empty in this picture, but school nurse Emily Mikeska is one of the most visited staff members on campus.

One of the most visited staff members on campus is school nurse Emily Mikeska. With an office located just off the rotunda, Mikeska is easily found and frequently asked for.

Wingspans Haley Flores sat down with Mikeska and talked her students, medicine and

Wingspan: What do students do when they feel sick and are not able to get the proper treatment?

Mikeska: “I always encourage to treat the symptoms early so things hopefully do not advance to something worse. If lack of insurance is the issue we do have a source provided by the district to get some medical coverage.”

Wingspan: What happens when a student is feeling ill and does not have a fever, but is in pain?

Mikeska: “My goal would be hopefully identify what may be causing the pain. Some things can be treated with ice and heat. If the pain is severe it may require more management such as medications or may even need to be evaluated by a doctor.”

Wingspan: What are the medication rules regarding students and pills?

Mikeska: “Students are not allowed to carry medications and should not give or accept meds from anyone. The exception to this are diabetics who are allowed to carry their testing supplies and insulin. Students with asthma may carry an inhaler with a signed permission from their doctor. Parents can supply medication to the clinic and with a signed permission form I can dispense medication to a student, but it stays with me.”

Wingspan: What are the weirdest things students have asked you about?

Mikeska: “I typically will see someone for a red spot on their skin and they want to know if it’s a spider bite. That’s something I can’t confirm when it’s a small red dot.”

Wingspan: What made you become a nurse?

Mikeska: “My mom was a nurse when I was a little girl and I grew up the oldest of six kids and I always had to care for my siblings. My mom said I was always a great help. When I was in high school I did some research and it was a field that said had great job security and I wanted that.”

Wingspan: What are the requirments to become a school nurse in FISD?

Mikeska: “To be an RN, and have some previous experience.”

Wingspan: How has your experience being a nurse at here on campus been?

Mikeska: “I totally enjoy my work here. I sometimes have to be the bad guy and you won’t always go home.”

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Busy fall for orchestra

Looking up at the photographer, the orchestra takes a break from rehearsing. The orchestra will be performing in Chicago in December.

Looking up at the photographer, the orchestra takes a break from rehearsing. The orchestra will be performing in Chicago in December.

courtesy of Julie Blackstock

courtesy of Julie Blackstock

Looking up at the photographer, the orchestra takes a break from rehearsing. The orchestra will be performing in Chicago in December.

With the second six week grading period just underway, most are adjusting to school after nearly three months of summer vacation. The orchestra has already been preparing for a number of activities, including a trip to Chicago to perform at the Midwest Convention, and its first concert on Tuesday.

At the head of all this is orchestra director Julie Blackstock. Wingspan sat down with Blackstock to talk about how thing’s are going and what the orchestra is working on these days.

Wingspan: What can staff and students expect out of orchestra this year? What other events is the orchestra preparing for?

Blackstock: “I hope that they’ll expect and see some great success at All-Region and All-State auditions. Obviously our performance at Midwest in Chicago. And I hope that great results at the UIL contest in February.”

Wingspan: What exactly is the Midwest Convention?

Blackstock: “It is an international convention for music educators from around the globe. There are a variety of clinics on literature, on conducting, on how to run your class, on how to play this, how to play that. It’s just a lot for music educators. And they center it in Chicago for people to come to from all over the world. For us, we had to submit a recording to be invited so that we could actually play there. So it is a prestigious event.”

Wingspan: How do you feel about performing in Chicago for the first time?

Blackstock: “Yes, I am losing sleep. I feel excited to do it with a group of students that I really like and love. I think that’s it. And to be with colleagues that I really like and love. I think that’s really the most important thing. I know that it will be okay but yes, I am losing sleep worrying about it. Worrying is my spiritual gift. It’s my best gift.”

Wingspan: What is the program consisted of? How did you decide on what pieces to play?

Blackstock: “Mr. Hazzard, who is our director of fine arts, and also one of my best friends, took his band to Midwest a few years ago, and I went with him because we were at Creekview together. He told me that the most important thing to do would be to program pieces that you love. And things that would mean something to you as a conductor. So a lot of that went into the planning for this. Obviously not for the grade ones and twos because we had to choose some of those. But the big pieces like the Candide, and the Elgar, Summer Place obviously, Kol Nidrei. Those are all pieces that I loved and could enjoy doing. The Kol Nidrei, my best friend from Seattle is coming to play the cello solo with us so that’s something special too. Mr. Hazzard just said it should be involving the music you love with the people you love, essentially.”

Wingspan: How are students preparing for this?

Blackstock: “Hopefully they’re doing lots of practicing. And working on it with their private lessons teachers. And just working hard. I feel good about it right now. So I think people are working hard. It’s just hard, as you know, we’re combining two classes. So that’s a bit of a stresser is when we only have one rehearsal a week to combine parts, so that’s a little bit nerve-wracking.”

Wingspan: What other activities are you doing in Chicago?

Blackstock: “Oh yeah. We’re going to go see Blue Man Group. We will go to see the Chicago Symphony. And we’ll eat at some fun places like Giordano’s Pizza and some iconic Chicago restaurants.”

Wingspan: What are your goals for orchestra this year?

Blackstock: “I would love there to be a good retainment, meaning everybody who’s in orchestra this year is in orchestra next year. But that it would be a place that they feel like they can belong and have fun and enjoy playing music. Not just for the competitive awards like the extrinsic ones but for the intrinsic ones to where they feel like it’s a place they want to be. They get that making music is an enjoyable pastime.”

Wingspan: What makes orchestra unique? What makes it enjoyable to work here?

Blackstock: “I think orchestra is unique because it has a wide variety of students involved in many things from athletics to academic courses and things like that and involved in a lot of other activities. That’s what makes it fun to work here. I think the talent level of the students makes it enjoyable to work here. I think they have been really looking to raise the level of their performances over the year. All orchestras, not just the top one. I think they have been eager for that. So that makes it a fun and unique place to work.”

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