When Wheeler High School choir director, Pam Hardesty, told her choirs that they were invited to perform in the world premier of Johan de Meij’s Symphony Number 5 Return to Middle Earth, they had no idea what they were about to get involved in.
Johan de Meij is a world-renowned composer who is most famous for his Symphony Number 1 The Lord of the Rings. De Meij has performed and conducted all around the world and has worked with a wide variety of musicians.
The students quickly realized the vigor of the music they would be performing. Never had they tackled music that compared to the symphony.
For weeks, the students intensely worked on the music. The WHS choir had a few combined rehearsals with schools around the area and the Windiana Orchestra, who would be performing alongside them.
In the week leading up to the premier, the choirs had a few rehearsals with Johan de Meij directing the piece. They saw the premier unfurling before them, firsthand. Students began to understand the importance and rarity of the performance.
The symphony premiered on November 3 in the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University following the performance of Symphony Number 1, which celebrated 30 years since its premier.
On November 3, the choirs and musicians were gathered and getting settled in their positions while the Chapel filled with audience members. Before anyone noticed, the Chapel was packed. Viewers scrambled for seats as the orchestra played their beginning notes.
After the performance, one could sense the amount of awe both the audience and performers felt. Johan de Meij was ecstatic to see his piece of music performed for the first time.
The Final Madrigal
Madrigal is a sixteenth century themed dinner hosted by the choir department. The choir sings and performs Christmas staples while audience members enjoy a dinner.
Everyone in choir is involved, from 6th graders to seniors. Members of Wheeler’s community are well aware of how important and special Madrigal is. It is the start of the Christmas season and spreads spirit.
This year, however, is the last time the department will be putting on the Madrigal performances.
Madrigal started at Wheeler High School 21 years ago. Each year consists of the same storyline and songs, but has added individuality. It has become a long time tradition cherished by numerous people. Some have participated in Madrigal themselves, and now watch their children take part in the tradition.
Junior Trey Erny first attended a Madrigal performance when he was in 4th grade.
“Ever since I was in 4th grade, I dreamed to be in the royal court, and it’s awesome that I am in it now,” Erny explained, “It is definitely bittersweet because it is the last Madrigal, but I know that this will just open up more opportunities for the Wheeler choirs.”
This year’s Madrigal performances take place on Saturday, December 15 and Sunday, December 16. There will be a 3:00 p.m. and a 7:00 p.m. performance on the 15th and a 2:30 p.m. performance on the 16th.
Tickets are $20 per person and may be purchased through the choir department.
When asked about her free time, senior Hollie Coto will appropriately respond, “What free time?”
Coto is always on the go and continuously expands her activities. She is involved in drama club, international Thespian Society, show choir, colorguard, Girl Scouts, debate club, GSA, National Honor Society, movie club, Porter County Youth Substance Abuse Counsel, and has a part-time job as well.
The arts play a major role in Coto’s life. She became involved in theatre after she watched her sister perform in Wheeler’s productions of The Wizard of Oz and Cats. Since, she has been part of fourteen productions and is playing the role of Gertrude in Wheeler’s upcoming production of Seussical. Coto has also been a part of choir since the fourth grade.
Coto credits the arts for shaping her into the person she is today, stating, “Being active in theatre and in choir helped bring me out of my shell, and it helped me to become confident in myself.”
With graduation a few months away, Coto seems to have a solid grip on her future. She has been accepted to Columbia College Chicago, and would like to major in interior architecture and design or musical theatre.
As a senior, Coto has been part of Union Township School Corporation for quite some time, and it has become a special place for her.
Coto shared,“Wheeler is unique to me because we are such a small school. We have dozens of opportunities to participate in the various amount of clubs, extracurriculars, and sports that we offer.”
Amanda Gibson found herself in an unfamiliar environment this school year. Gibson recently joined the Union Township School Corporation as a high school guidance counselor, working alongside Mike Rosta.
Gibson attended Purdue University Northwest, where she received her bachelor's degree in Secondary English Education. She taught English for two years while she continued furthering her education. Gibson will graduate in May with her Counseling Masters.
Gibson knew she wanted to pursue education and, more specifically, counseling for a long time. She personally struggled with bullying in school, so she knew she wanted to do as much as possible to help others.
Gibson stated, “I had a couple people that helped me get through those hard times, and I wanted to be that person for those kids.”
As the first trimester at Wheeler recently ended, Gibson is just getting comfortable at the school. She explained that the staff has been very welcoming and helpful.
“It’s nice to work in a collaborative environment, and the kids have been great,” said Gibson.
Looking forward into the remaining part of the school year, Gibson is focused on continuing to learn more about the profession. She hopes kids will know that they are welcome to come talk to her and that she has an open door policy.
“Honestly, I am trying to get a knack for the profession, and get acclimated to the school and job,” explained Gibson.
Gibson also took on the position of Key Club sponsor, as the previous sponsor, Mary Jarosz, retired. In her free time, Gibson enjoys cooking, watching and coaching basketball, and keeping up with reality TV.