The Slinger School District is well-respected for its music programs in 2013-2014. Was it always that way?
1930 graduate, Bernie Schaefer told student interviewees that the Band Mothers made a Large S (band letter) for band members. There must've been some pride in being a band member back then (even though, according to Schaefer, the athletes didn't like that band members had an S). Schaefer didn't say much about the size of the program in the 1930s (Schaefer, 1999). According to 1957 Slinger grad and former school board member, Marilyn Mayer, music was always significant in the Slinger area but not always in the Slinger School District Schools. "When I was in elementary school, there was only a part-time band director in the schools. St. Peter's had a good program, and that had an influence. Eventually we got a full-time band director. When Ron Rueckl became the band director when I was a sophomore in high school, things really took off." In fact, when schools consolidated in 1950 and the state mandated going to school past age 16, space was an issue for band students. "Students who wanted to be involved in the band program at Slinger HIgh School had to walk to what is now Jim's Place for a place to play" (Marilyn Mayer April 4, 2014). Shirley Wolf, a high school student at Slinger in the 1950s, explained to students that Ron Rueckl taking over the band program brought new ideas. "He had some ideas we hadn't seen before. I know he taught me how to do the turkey trot as drum major. That was new for most of us." Shirley Hofmaier discussed how band mothers in the early 1950s made attempts to earn money from candy sales and carnivals for new band uniforms. They made enough to purchase in the mid-1950's. "They were grey w/red ascot ties, plumed hats. We were really something!"
In the 2013-2014 school year, the marching band has over 130 members and the concert band has over 60 members. There is a class of students playing jazz. Choir numbers are Chorale -- 6, Chamber -- 27, Vocal Jazz -- 16, Acapella -- 6, Treble Choir -- 21. On an alumni survey with over 50 respondents as part of the sociological study conducted by SHS students in 2013, a majority of students spoke very highly of the Slinger Band program and the music program in general.
Here is a partial list of some of the current events and programs as well as some of the history of how they came to be.
*Band (Concert, Symphonic, and Wind Ensemble)
*Slinger Marching Band
*Jazz Band (Jazz lab and Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Fest and MJ Stevens Jazz BBQ)
*Choral (Concert Corale, Treble Choir, Chamber Singers, and Vocal Jazz)
Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Wind Ensemble
Photo by Elizabeth Weninger
Section under construction
Colorguard history document
Slinger's Marching Band is well respected in the area and beyond. More to come as research gets finalized. Video at Right focuses on Marching Band during homecoming 2015.
Click here for some notes from local newspapers concerning the first band trip led by Dan Petersen in 1977. A 1979 West Bend Daily News article written by Susan Snyder, mentions that the band sold popcorn in September, candles around Thanksgiving, pizzas in January, light bulbs to be able to afford to go on the band trip at the end of the 1979-1980 school year.
Excerpt of 1981 Slinger Jazz Band under Dan Petersen (above). Jazz groups routinely won festival awards at UW-Whitewater and UW-Eau Claire and other festivals under Petersen and other teachers. 2009 Jazz Ensemble performing Tower of Power cover before the Cats Pajamas show. (below)
Jazz music, a blend of improvisation, swing notes, and syncopation first originated in the 20th century. Though mainly popular in African American communities in Southern America, jazz music has made its way up to Northern America where it continues to influence the lives of musicians of all ages. Jazz has made a major impact on Slinger High School. This same school hosts the annual Jazz Fest which includes high schools around Southeastern Wisconsin. Why Slinger, Wisconsin? What is with Jazz music in the small village of Slinger? Click the link below to find out
Written by Brooke Herman (2014 grad)
Brooke Herman, senior music and sociology student, prepared a video on band at Slinger High School. (Above) The Jazz section starts at about 1:30 in the video
We need more amateur photos and stories about jazz, Jazz fest, and MJ Stevens Jazz BBQ. Here is a 2014 synopsis of Jazz BBQ.
Photos by Linda O'Rourke and Mike Hamm
This section is under construction. More to come.
For now, here is an excerpt from current band director, Adam Kieckhafer, on Band Night 2013 collected by Alex Friedemann. Photos of multiple levels of marching bands on fields (left) and community members enjoying fish (top right).
Program cover for the Band-O-Rama, a precursor to Band Night (Right) Courtesy of Dan Petersen
Click here for part of the insert in this program. The band directors hosting this event were Heidi Schuppel, Dave Hanke, and Dan Petersen
This section is still under construction
We are seeking more stories about the choral program.
"Beauty in the Beast" sold out in 2013. In fact, it has become quite common to have packed houses for musical in recent years and quite the communal event. Student director, Alexa Bingen, from the "Beauty and the Beast" show analyzes musicals at Slinger. Click here. The Wizard of Oz in new PAC (right, Fall 2018)
For some students, the musical is their high school identity; they may not be involved in sports or academic teams. The musical is the one area where they can shine. When you think of the number of students cast for a show as a percentage of the total student body, it is an elite group who put their heart and soul into making the production exceptional. It was always fun to see the relationships grow and the bond among the group strengthen with each passing week of rehearsal. (Sue Becker, Slinger alum, Adult stage manager)
What was the Impact on students? The impact was huge.
In one case, I remember a young woman who habitually skipped school, got a major part in “Grease.” I had a talk with her, telling her how important it was to make sure she came to school, so she wouldn’t let down the rest of the cast, etc. etc. She never missed a day afterward.
Also … there is a sense of community/family/pride in a great product. There was a feeling like they were a “part” of something bigger than themselves.
Did the Community value musicals? Yes … it always seemed so. Back when I was directing the first time (with John Farrell) all the football players were in the show, which was unheard of! We did West Side Story … and needed guys. Farrell went out and recruited the FB players, who "bought into it," and they brought a sort of “credibility” to the musical/music program at that time … in other words, they made it “OK” for a “guy” to be “musical.” That year, community support was huge and it continued to be so. I think it was all connected to the music program in general … Band is “cool” in Slinger. That’s not true everywhere, but it is here. So … the community has always been a huge part of and supportive of the musical program. When I was directing, “musical parents” always held cast parties, volunteered their time w/costuming, set building, etc. It was always a community effort.Of course, when Honours, Inc. was instituted, the dinner theater/fund raiser/musical idea got started, which also involved community.
As an Alumni: We had no musicals when I was in High School. It all started after I started teaching there in 1975. Not like I “started” it or anything, but at the time, the choral teacher, Julie Houston, directed a musical. I was not involved with it. The next year, I got on board. After that, it became a yearly event, and included the band guys too. Ken Johnson is the name that comes to mind … along with Dave Hanke.
-Barbara Pfeifer-Woog, alumni and former director
I like to think participation in musicals had a pretty large impact on students. When I was directing the shows we had as many as 90 students involved in roles from acting, to stage crew, pit band, costumes, advertising and beyond. That's well over 1/10 of the student body. I think when that many students have buy-in on an activity it creates a huge sense of unity throughout the entire school. That 10% doesn't include the students who came to see the musicals. My favorite moments of the school years when I taught in Slinger were the evenings following performances where fellow students came to meet and congratulate their peers in the lobby.
It seemed to me that musicals were always well attended when I was the director at the high school. I particularly remember getting a large amount of positive feedback from the community after my first show at SHS because it was my first real directing gig and I was nervous. Community parents sent cards, emails and made phone calls with a great amount of support. (I still think of Slinger parents as the best I've worked with in the three high schools where I've taught.)
The last show I did at SHS involved students from one of the elementary schools in Slinger. I think that really helped to make a bridge between the high school and the elementary schools. It also brought a lot of parents and grandparents in who might not otherwise have come. Overall I think the financial success of the musicals was a pretty strong indicator of what they meant to the community when I was there. The musical program supported itself and that's in large part to the community members who made the commitment to come out and support the kids.
I chalk up directing the musicals at Slinger as one of the greatest collective experiences of my teaching career
-Former Director, Ryan Kerr (2007-2009)
Tom and Lori Matasek (referenced in the Music supporters section) are essential to the production of the musicals at Slinger High School. Click here for testimonials about Tom from students and teachers
Photo of Tom from before White Christmas (2014). Photo by Nate Grimm
Periodically, national and regional performing artists select Slinger as a place to visit. Students get a chance to workshop and collaborate on the production.
Examples of artists featured at Slinger:
*Count Basie Band
*U.S. Navy Band
*The Cat's Pajamas Vocal Band
*Lunchbox Superstars and Marcus Terell and the Serenades
Senior student, Samantha Steinbring wrote this article and it was accepted for submission to WB Daily News. The Daily News is a leader in writing local stories that engage Slinger Area and future musicals, guest artists, and school music performances.