It is truly hard to believe that the Christmas season is already upon us! Every year along with the Christmas season, the Valparaiso Community always look forward to the annual “This Is Our Story” festival in which students from every grade, K-12, participate in from all the Valparaiso Community Schools. On the first night of this year’s program, our expectations as spectators and parents alike were fulfilled above and beyond of the amazing talent within the Valparaiso schools.
No one can pass through the lobby outside of the gym without seeing the crazy amount of artwork on display for everyone to enjoy. Becky Bongard, a 4th/5th elementary music teacher, explained it best! “The evening is always such a fun and festive night. I often walk through the lobby before hand to peruse through the fabulous art displays. Wow! The talent our students demonstrate!”
Marilyn Hanson, an art teacher at Valparaiso High School, shared her thoughts and great insight about the event. “The VCS art students have participated in TIOS since the inception in 1984. It is an extraordinary event that showcases the visual and performing arts system-wide, K-12. Very few schools in Indiana can say that they have a program like this where over 4000 community folks attend a two-night show for the arts. All the students feel special to exhibit their artwork. Also, students in younger grades can view what possibilities are available for them in the high school art curriculum choices.”
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 Erin Utesch, the principal of Cooks Corners Elementary School, was selected be the host.
“I'm going to be making every effort to ensure that the focus is on the amazing artists and musicians this evening. We talk a lot at Cooks Corners about growing the whole child. "This is Our Story" exemplifies that mindset, because it not only supports the idea that the arts are good for a child's development, but that the arts are good for all of us! I'm honored to be a part of tonight's beautiful event.” -Principle Utesch
The VHS Band played music that was centered around the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, which is also known as “Festival of Lights.” Of course, all musical groups performed some of the traditional holiday tunes. Miguel E. Rosario-Vega, the Music and Band Director at Valparaiso High School, stated, “TIOS is a wonderful opportunity for students, teachers, administrators, and the community at large to enjoy art and music in the course of two evenings. It serves us as a reminder of the wide range of opportunities available to our students to explore ways to express themselves in the visual and performing arts.”
"It is truly exciting to see the look on the participating students' faces and the pride of their families during these two evenings! We are so fortunate to have the support of the administration, staff, and community for the arts in Valparaiso!" -Marilyn Hanson.
“As the years have gone by, I often get greeted by former students who are now in choirs, bands or orchestras in the middle and high school. I feel so proud to see them develop into wonderful musicians and it warms my heart to see their big smiles. It's a fulfilling feeling for all of the educators to see how far their students can go!” -Becky Bongard
Proud parents Steve and Julie Rahn stated, “We like seeing our children and their friends perform. It's also fun to see everyone from the community come out to support all the music programs in VCS. We have many talented young musicians and its always a fun and festive evening.”
Nathan Courtaney, a senior at VHS, wanted share his thoughts with the Valparaiso community. “Since this is my 9th year performing in “This Is Our Story,” it is definitely sad to say that this is my last year. Singing in choir in elementary school and band through high school, I always looked forward to this concert. Playing Christmas songs during school always brings a certain joy to everyone. I hope that this tradition never ends so that the Valpo community can continue to come and celebrate Christmas time together!”
Because of the large amount of students participating in “This Is Our Story” each year, the Valparaiso High School gymnasium is only able to accommodate half the students on one night. So if you missed first night performance, there is another one tomorrow night, December 16, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. in the Valparaiso High School gymnasium with students equally talented with slightly different performances.