Performing Arts Award

The Chris Patterson Memorial Foundation is excited to announce the 2020 recipients of the Chris Patterson Performing Arts Award.

West Aurora High School

From West Aurora High School, the recipient was Ainslee Wong!

The Winning Submission

Memories flood my thoughts as I wander around backstage.  I walk by the burnt spot on the ground, a reminder of the time I set fire to an extension cord by accident.  On the wall, I spot a small piece of neon spike tape, inscribed with the word “Zing,” left years ago by my old stage manager, Isobela.  Underneath the dressing room stairs, bobby pins litter the floor, an amusing reminder of the time Johnny tried to pick a lock backstage.  As I traverse the pit, I can’t help but smile at the thought of Gretchen 2, the monster that we all believe to live in the pit.  Remnants of the last set we built are scattered around, bringing about fond memories of late nights working with my most favorite people in the world. In just three short years, these strangers have turned into family, and coming to the auditorium feels like coming home. 

Without these people, I would have been crushed by the literal mountain of books that come with taking AP Literature and Composition, or I might have drowned in the staggering amount of integral rules that come with Calculus BC.  Luckily for me, the stage crew members were there to build me a boat to survive my sea of homework assignments.  During my freshman year, I struggled with stage crew.  My natural aptitude for STEM courses did not seem to apply when I had a sheet of plywood and a cut list.  I frequently told Mr. Tait, the technical director, that I could not do what he asked of me.  However, with absolute certainty, he would always reply “I believe in you”.  These four words, although annoying at the time, pushed me to become better.  By believing in me, he gave me no choice but to grow.  With this encouragement, I realized that I will not always be able to innately excel, but despite this, I must push myself to become better.  Giving up was not an option when a set had to be built in two months.  Since then, I have applied this lesson to many areas of my life.  Now, when differential functions knock me down, I know I have it in me to get back up again and give it another shot. 

The bond created while working backstage has also supported me throughout high school.  Without the unwavering support of the West Aurora stage crew, Sophomore English Honors would have vanquished me during the Odyssey Unit.  Whenever I feel down or stressed, I know I can count on the stage crew members to suffocate the sadness out of me via bone-crushing hugs and the occasional dog pile.  This support, formed from working countless hours backstage, helped me drag myself through the grueling process that is the American education system.  Without them to support me, I would have spiraled into a homework induced depression.  Luckily, stage crew gave me a place where I could relax while still learning.  Due to their support, I managed to keep my grade up and come graduation time, I will be graduating in the top 5% of my class. I am leaving West Aurora stage crew to pursue a career in Industrial Organizational Psychology, and even though the thought of graduation makes me bittersweet, I know that they would want me to continue to push forward.  Although my career probably won’t involve Gretchen 2 or picking locks, I hope to create teams that inspire the same sort of camaraderie I found in stage crew. 

Batavia High School

From Batavia High School, the recipient was Landon Keller!

The Winning Submission

For some, music is a non-essential element in everyday life. For me, I can’t go a day without tapping my fingers on the table or singing in the shower. Every note I play creates a personalized message just waiting for me to read.

Starting in elementary school, both my teachers and parents noticed that I had considerable trouble in literacy classes, especially Spelling. To fix this, my mother taped paper letters onto each drum and cymbal of my drumset, with the idea that I would have to physically bang out the beat of each word on my weekly spelling list. Although I argued that I didn’t want anything “educational” interfering with my musical endeavors, I quickly learned to love it. This auditory and kinesthetic style helped me remember the rhythm of language.

Although I had been an accomplished school percussionist since fifth grade, I decided to switch to choir in my Junior year of high school. My background in musical theatre prompted that decision. When I started, I found a commonality between vocal arrangements and the structure of high school mathematics…it all came together to form one well-blended composition. The material that I learned in my freshman algebra class came back during senior year pre-calculus class, much like the common tenor voice part is universally utilized to add strain or tension in a chord, which is something I learned far before I began high school choir.

I am very fortunate to be able to go on and study musical theatre as not only a hobby but a career. Music has brought me through the toughest of times, no matter how difficult they may be. The things that I plan to accomplish through music and theatre are endless, and the possibility of changing the world through music keeps getting more tangible every time I play.

East Aurora High School

From East Aurora High School, the recipient was Sam Stade!

The Winning Submission

My name is Sam Stade and for four years I participated in the East Aurora Percussion Techniques class instructed by Joe Kulick. The extra time receiving instruction and practicing may appear to limit my time studying for core classes. However, many skills beneficial to these classes were developed within me through band.

The first skill was perseverance. All complex skills require hours of intense, focused practice. There are many complex skills required for percussion as practically every drum has fifty ways to be played. The countless hours I spent practicing these skills individually taught me how to “grind” efficiently. I could then use these principles to learn new skills in my core classes.

The next skill is teamwork. I’ve performed in many small ensembles where the instructor isn’t present for the rehearsals. Practicing with my peers without an adult leader for the first time was an uncomfortable experience. Who would dictate temp? Who would keep everyone on task? By sharpening our leadership and negotiation skills, we were able to overcome these challenges. I use the same teamwork techniques in my core classes when solving problems with other students.

Finally, I became more independent. When preparing a percussion piece, there are a multitude of details to be analyzed, such as “which specific drum fits the part?”, “which mallets make the best sound?”, “how should I hit the drum?”. There is often not a right or wrong answer to these questions, so my instructor encouraged us to experiment independently. This process helped solidify my uniqueness as an individual and increased my confidence when interacting with the teachers of my core classes.

Band has been an infinitely valuable experience and it is a shame that it’s all put on hold due to the coronavirus. However, I will use the skills band gave me to get through these troubling times: perseverance, teamwork, and independence.

Kaneland High School

From Kaneland High School, the recipient was Jillian Anderson!

The Winning Submission

The performing arts has been a huge part of my life since my first day of band camp back in the summer before 6th grade. I showed up on the first day with my brand new shiny alto saxophone ready to get started. I actually began my music career back in 2nd grade when I began taking piano lessons, so I had a little bit of musical background already to drive my motivation in starting in band. I spent my first few weeks squeaking my way through camp but got the hang of it quickly and by the end of my 6th grade year I was already a part of the pre-jazz lab band, the concert band, and even decided to add choir to the mix. These middle school years testing the waters of my school’s performing arts department was the best decision I have ever made. And now, 6 years later, I am a section leader, play every saxophone my school has along with the piano still and even found another passion: the theater. I am not much of an actor and began my theater journey as a measly little freshman techie working on the fall play. But since then I have found my way through various board op positions, student director, and now stage manager and am one of two full 8 show seniors.

These adventures through the performing arts department have helped me grow as a person more and more every year and have given me an amazing sense of community. I even find myself using the life skills I’ve learned through my journey through the arts in my everyday life and my core classes in school. Being so involved in band and theater has taught me dedication, integrity, responsibility, ownership, creativity, friendship and so much more. These are all skills I can apply in the classroom in subjects like AP Calculus BC and AP Chemistry where I have to stay very focused and diligent in my work, and subjects like Psychology and AP Literature where I have to be creative and think outside the box and be confident in my work for it to be the very best it can be. It has also taught me that there is no “I” in “team”. It has gotten me to be more confident in myself and be a part of teams both in and out of the classroom. I have found it much easier in these last few years to push myself to join groups for projects rather than just do them on my own and make new friends that can help me when I need it. Honestly, the performing arts department at Kaneland has changed my life and I am so proud and grateful to have gotten the chance to be a part of such an amazing community. I will continue to grow throughout the end of my senior year and hope to take all the wonderful skills I have learned along the way with me even after I graduate. It has been an experience I will never forget and always keep with me.

Geneva High School

From Geneva High School, the recipient was Annika Chruscial!

The Winning Submission

Theatre is an undeniably demanding art form – technically, vocally, and emotionally. Performers bear the heavy responsibilities of memorizing texts with dense material and extensive lengths, modulating their voices to be heard and understood across auditoriums, and repeatedly depict raw emotion without any cuts or editing. High school student performers accept an additional layer of difficulty as they must balance academic expectations alongside all these taxing responsibilities onstage.

Yet despite these pressures, the theatre never fails to be an affirmative environment where authenticity, creativity, and beauty flourishes. Participating in theatre as part of the performing arts has encouraged me to maintain an active presence in the classroom and taught me the value of working collaboratively, ultimately allowing me to become more understanding as both a performer on stage and a young woman offstage.

I have always been on the shy and reserved side, which often leads to someone’s surprise when I admit that I’m a theatre kid! I never imagined that drama would be something I’d be comfortable doing, let alone become something I’m incredibly passionate about. But when I first stepped onstage to audition for my middle school’s sixth-grade play, I quickly realized the stunning opportunities that lie in the theatre’s experiences and relationships. The gravity of those opportunities has carried into the classroom by motivating me to be bold in my contributions, improving my presentations and participation grades but eventually my self-confidence. My experiences onstage have easily helped me become more willing to share my opinions, display my passions, and engage in my questions.

Additionally, the collaborative aspect of theatre is beautiful – that people of so many different backgrounds, strengths, and capabilities can come together to generate pure magic. The skills I’ve acquired while learning to create alongside the varying ideas from each student member of a production (including, cast, crew, and pit) have easily transferred into the classroom setting. I feel that theatre has equipped me to better process the mixed information formulated in a group project, appropriately delegate when necessary in a situation involving others, and simply better understand how relationships work, regardless of a title or circumstance.

I will never be able to say thank you enough to the performing arts for everything they have taught me thus far, and I am endlessly grateful for how easily its lessons have revealed themselves in other outlets, including the core education classroom.