Christmas never arrives quietly in Valpo. Hundreds of children, teens and instruments are heard as part of This is Our Story, an annual festival that celebrates art both with music and in a wide range of media from sculptures to photographs. Kindergarten through high school senior students work together to create an amazing event.
“This has been a tradition for me for the last 24 years,” said Stephanie Samardzija, an art teach at Thomas Jefferson. “It’s nice to have all the kids artwork, and nice to have all the music, and it’s a really good time.”
William Barber, a Valparaiso High School teacher was excited to experience his second This is Our Story.
“This is a time where all the schools showcase their art, and we also have the music program,” he said.
Valparaiso Community Schools believes art is very important to education, as it enables students to be sensitive, compassionate, and understanding. The belief that art is important to discovering who we truly are is strong at Valpo Schools. Art touches everything corner of the “This is Our Story” festival.
One of the exciting things was that students were able to design covers for the programs. Students in William Barber’s classes exercised their analytical skills to select winners, which were then voted on by the entire school. The winning program cover for Monday night belonged to Audra Camadeca, who drew a beautiful scene of stockings on a mantel.
Lots of time and effort goes into This is Our Story. No one knows that better than Alex Luke, an assistant choral teacher who worked with all of the middle and high school choirs to get to this point.
“Our middle school kids, especially our sixth graders, who we’re really proud of, have really stepped up to the plate. We gave them a hard piece and we’ve been working on it since October. We’re really proud of them,” he said.
Each year, some one who has been a positive influence and role model to the students in the community is selected to be the “Master of Ceremonies.” Valparaiso schools are very excited that this year Julie Lauck, Assistant Superintendent of Valparaiso Community Schools was selected.
“Tonight is going to be like no other. If this is your first time, you are in for a treat. I am so honored to be here as MC this evening, and I welcome all of you.” she said of the event.
Early on, Dr. Lauck noted to the audience how difficult it was not to dance. By the end of the night, she enjoyed a few minutes of celebrating the event by dancing along to a song.
Lindsey Lease, a Valparaiso High School student said “I’m super excited to perform, and I love music and I’m excited to show everyone exactly what I’ve been working on.”
Pieces performed included O Nata Lux, which was the difficult piece for the middle school choir. The Elementary School choirs performed Blitzen's Boogie, which was adorably choreographed to include the kids making antlers on their heads with their hands. The Valpo High School Varsity singers brought the house down with “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot like Christmas.”
The VHS Wind Ensemble with Symphonic Band performed, as well as the TJMS Choirs, the VHS Chamber orchestra, the TJMS 6th grade band, the VHS Choice Concert, the 5th and 6th grade orchestras, and the TJMS 7th and 8th grade bands on Monday Night, with the rest of the musicians to follow on Tuesday.