2022 Performing Arts Award Recipients

Performing Arts Award

The Chris Patterson Memorial Foundation is excited to announce the 2022 recipients of the Chris Patterson Performing Arts Award.

West Aurora High School

From West Aurora High School, the recipient was David Simpson!

The Winning Submission

After months of preparation, performing on stage gives a rush of adrenaline and a sense of accomplishment. However, acting and singing in choirs at West Aurora High School also gives me skills that I use daily, even in classes that aren’t fine arts-based. One crucial factor for performing, whether that’s in a play or musical, or concert, is working with those around you. This is a major part of performing, trusting in, and becoming confident with those around you. This is something I use in all my classes, especially when working on a group project. The companionship and trust I learned from being on stage also translate to the classroom.

Additionally, another way that performing arts has helped me is feeling comfortable asking questions. As simple as it sounds, asking questions can sometimes be difficult, especially in a core curriculum class. However, in my fine arts courses, I find myself asking questions all the time checking on a note or my blocking, or just seeking clarification. Without realizing it, throughout my four years in high school I have become less afraid or worried to ask questions in core classes. The confidence that performing instills in me is a huge asset to me in the classroom.

This confidence shows up in other ways as well. I also have become less nervous when presenting or giving speeches in front of the class, because of my experience in the performing arts. Having that prior experience helps to calm your nerves and have fun when presenting a speech or project. Without even realizing it, the performing arts have given me so many additional valuable talents and confidence that apply to all parts of my life. This helps me under the lights on the stage or in the classroom when prepping for a project or test.

As I look ahead to college where I plan to continue my studies with a major in Musical Theatre at Illinois State University, I will carry these ideas and experiences with me. The performing arts are a part of my life, on and off the stage, whether I had realized it or not, and I am better because of it.

Batavia High School

From Batavia High School, the recipient was Julianna Anderson!

The Winning Submission

I have been in Orchestra since I was in fifth grade. It has been around eight years that I have been participating in music, and for some years I participated in dance competitions. Therefore, I have spent over ten years in the performing arts, and I have always considered it a part of my life that I will never get rid of. Without the performing arts, I do not think that I would have the success I do today in my academic life.

In elementary school, I struggled with most subjects and even took additional speech classes that my other classmates weren’t taking. For some time, I was even on an IEP due to my difficulty in learning and catching up with my age group. Once I started playing cello in fourth and fifth grade, I started to have more success in my classes. Starting in seventh grade, I started to maintain a 4.0 GPA and maintain straight A’s throughout the rest of my years at middle school. Then, once I got to high school, I started to take more rigorous classes such as AP subjects, Dual Credit classes, and Honors classes.  Music is most definitely the biggest factor in my academic success. Without it, I do not believe that I would be able to maintain the time management and complex thinking skills that I have today.

I believe that music has made me into an amazing student that is able to pick up concepts better than I ever could before. Because of music, I have a hobby that I can look forward to, relax, and de-stress from studying in my core subjects. It has also allowed me to continue my French education so that, eventually, I will be bilingual. I am excited to be able to further my education in college, and I know that it will be thanks to the fact that I am a performing artist.

East Aurora High School

From East Aurora High School, the recipient was Daniela Velazquez!

The Winning Submission

Ever since the 5th grade, I have always been actively involved in both band and choir. Once I got to high school I joined as many ensembles as I could. I joined and auditioned into my school’s top band and choir; I played in both Jazz Bands; I was in the marching band as a member and a section leader; I was part of the pit for our musical; I auditioned for ILMEA and got to perform with the honors Choir twice. I did all this while taking all honors and AP classes. Doing so much has led to classmates calling me a “try-hard” and “extra” but while they laughed at me for being an overachiever, I learned important skills such as time management and refinement which have transformed me into a student who always gives it their all inside and outside of school.

The countless hours I spent practicing inside of the practice rooms, whether it be playing runs on the flute or singing difficult harmonies, taught me how to effectively look at music in different ways to help me achieve the product I desired. I have seen this translate into my classwork as I look at different ways to approach writing assignments and as I choose what words to use in a well-thought-out essay. Like the music I play, I took a step back and looked at it as a whole. I tried to convey emotion and story through my words in the same way I did my music. I found myself mirroring my legato and expressive playing in my long and poetic writing. My staccato rhythms and accented notes transformed into the scribbling of my pencil as I wrote sentences and clicked my pen. The creativity I learned from my playing directly translated into my poems for class.

Aside from that, the sight-reading I did in band and choir taught me how to be quick on my feet which has proven to be useful in most if not all of my classes. It’s helped me prepare for timed tests in math, literature, and history. It’s taught me to accept my mistakes in pretests and learn to appreciate the growth I show in final tests just like seeing the improvement from my first sight read all the way to my concert performance.

I’ve loved and enjoyed every performance I got to be a part of and cannot imagine who I would be without music. I mean it when I say that performing has taught me discipline and application. It’s also most importantly taught me how to enjoy school and all the opportunities given to me. I only hope that I can continue to fill my life with my love for music and education as I continue to grow as a musician and into adulthood.

Kaneland High School

From Kaneland High School, the recipient was McKenna Goss!

The Winning Submission

I’ve loved performing arts since elementary school. I always felt like I truly came alive the second I stepped on that stage. Being in the performing arts has taught me that fortune favors the brave. David Walsch once said, ” Life starts at the end of your comfort zone”. Performing arts has pulled many valuable traits out of me that have helped me in high school, and that I know will help me as I move forward in life beyond high school.

Being a performer means ignoring your fears, getting up time and time again to perform even if you’re shaking. Pushing myself past my fears repeatedly has made me confident in my education because everything pales in comparison. When it comes time in my AP Spanish class to present and I get the normal jitters, I feel comfort knowing all the times that I’ve gotten through the fear just fine.

A couple of years ago I was talking to an upperclassman in theater, and he said something that stuck with me. Sitting on the floor in the music hallway, he talked about how he kept auditioning and performing because he learned to love the fear and the rush that comes after. He said that eventually, that fear left him and now it’s second nature. Ever since, I have continued to ruthlessly throw myself at opportunities to reach this level of homeostasis, if you will. The performing arts have given me the priceless trait of being confident in myself in the face of adversity.

Performing arts has also taught me to be insanely open-minded and accepting of fellow students in school. Putting myself in the shoes of various characters has allowed me to empathize more with the people in my life similar to those characters. Diving into the psychology of different characters has also taught me more about myself.   In English class, I analyze characters from our books the same way I would analyze a role. Character analysis definitely is a skill that I use both in theater, the classroom, and in life. In the future, I will use the things I’ve learned to approach the world with empathy.

The valuable lessons I’ve learned from theater have enriched my high school education and I am confident they will enrich the rest of my life. We never know how long we will have on this earth, so with the time we have, I am so grateful that I have had such a loving, impactful environment that has helped me grow in many areas of my life. I look forward to the future where I can continue to perform and inspire others to become their best selves as well.

Geneva Community High School

From Geneva Community High School, the recipient was Hannah Thill!

The Winning Submission

In the midst of a chaotic school day, I place my viola on my shoulder and draw my bow across its strings. For 50 minutes, I am transported out of the school, completely enthralled in the world of orchestra. I have always been an honors student, with a schedule packed with courses designed to challenge every area of my mind, but orchestra is a release. Challenging as it may be, music provides a release, a chance for me to express whatever emotions I may be feeling into art. Recharging for the school day, music leaves me more focused and ready to tackle the concepts of my core classes.

As I play a Bach fugue, I notice the patterns in the music, and how the melodies and counterpoints interact between sections and seamlessly transform over time. Seamlessly threaded together, a pattern can be found in this art. Finding patterns in life is necessary; from geometric sequences to sentence structures, patterns dictate how we live. Identifying these patterns in music has translated into my academic courses, translating the creativity I thrive in into logic.

But music isn’t solely about patterns, as prominent as they may be. Music expounds upon human emotions. Every feeling is perfectly planned out, the sheet music in front of me is a roadmap of emotions. How is this any different than in an English class? The author uses their sentence structure and words to generate emotions just like composers with their music.

All of this, identifying patterns, and seeing how emotions are seamlessly woven into every aspect of life, translate into my core classes. I find myself excelling through these lessons music teaches me, and I use the escape my orchestra class provides me to prepare for the courses ahead of me. The bell rings, and orchestra class is over, but the lessons learned in orchestra will remain with me throughout the day, throughout my life.

Performing Arts Award

The Chris Patterson Memorial Foundation is excited to announce the 2021 recipients of the Chris Patterson Performing Arts Award.

West Aurora High School

From West Aurora High School, the recipient was Allison Tremaine!

The Winning Submission

Stillness. In spite of all of the performances, bonding sessions, and rehearsals; the stillness of walking back to your car resting under the streetlamp of an empty parking lot gave me one of the most surreal feelings I have ever experienced. One that can only be achieved by waking up at 5 am, going to school, stressing about when you’re going to find the time to do your AP homework, and staying until 11 pm after a disastrous first day of tech week. While being involved in stage crew, wind symphony, marching band, and pep band; I’ve grown accustomed to a rigorous schedule. The time management skills I’ve gained over the years have helped not only maintain my grades as I do the things, I love but have also kept me from losing my sanity. Especially on the Fridays when I had crew after school, a football game after that, and a paper on The Crucible due the same night.

With covid, the days melted together. Without being able to rehearse like we normally do, my appreciation for the fine arts surfaced as I came to realize that it is the reason many students find the motivation to go to school and have their work done for class. With the monotony of sitting at home typing on the computer for 8 hours a day, thank goodness marching band drilled a sense of discipline into me. Otherwise, I am fairly certain I would not have the grades I do right now. While I don’t miss practicing slides or run-on-step in 90-degree weather, the mental and physical discipline from marching band did come in handy when I was about to have a break-down over the sea of AP Physics work I had to do at the end of Junior year when the lockdown began.

The one overarching theme I’ve found that can reach every area of the fine arts is that time passes, but family stays. I had been asked before a football game by a reporter from the school newspaper, “what is one word that describes the fine arts”, and I of course said “family” She laughed and told me about how every person she interviewed had given her the same answer. Since most of the students in the AP programs are also in the fine arts, it was very easy to translate that sense of community to a classroom environment. Since we all knew each other, it made my learning experience so much easier because I didn’t have to deal with the anxiety of meeting and trying to get along with new people.

To think I wouldn’t have met so many more of these amazing people if I hadn’t been scared into joining stage crew. Yes. Scared; by my trumpet section leader my freshman year to be exact (who would later play Seymour in our production of Little Shop that spring). The connections and motivations that the fine arts give me to do well in school are what have gotten me through my last four years at West. And when I close my eyes and see my car in the distance, bathed under the warm light of that streetlamp, I will remember the friendships, heartaches, laughter, and tears that allowed me to achieve academic success thanks to the fine arts.

Batavia High School

From Batavia High School, the recipient was Alexander Holzman!

The Winning Submission

Most nights before the pandemic, after everyone else had gone home, you would have found me still at school if you peeked in practice room F. It is so rare to get a moment to play music alone, with no one else listening in—no audience and no expectations from anyone else—and I took advantage of every one of those opportunities. Being in performing arts has taught me not to take chances for granted, among other things, shaping me and who I am today.

Whether it is when I play flute in band class, or piano for myself, I know I am where I belong. There is a bond that cannot be broken. I pour not just my effort but also my emotions into music—fear, anger, sadness, and hope—and it gives me satisfaction in return.

Music has brought me out of my middle-school bubble. When I first started high school, I was nervous, awkward, and, honestly, a little antisocial. A grueling marching band repertoire of 8-hour practices, 6 days a week did most of the work for me. Standing side by side, day in, and day out, with 100 kids for a whole summer? We could not help but bond. Before my freshman year, I would never have expected to go to an escape room and a hiking trip with anyone, much less the 5 flutists that became my closest friends.

In marching band, our competition scores are not just based on the group as a whole, but also focused on individuals. Therefore, in practice, everyone constantly focuses on ways to get better—and your friends or leaders will help correct you when you mess up or when there’s a really difficult part of a show. However, they will not truly catch the smaller details unless you actively mention it. By being in marching band, I learned how to ask for help, rather than waiting for people to help me. When I am in class and do not understand something, I am now confident enough in my own ability that I can turn and admit to a friend that I do not get it and ask them to explain.

Band also underscored the value of self-reliance. Mr. Owen and BVK, my band directors, would always mention “Rule number 9” in the midst of a school concert or marching band competition. Everyone recited it as soon as it came up: “Figure it out!” No one else was going to hold me accountable—I had to hold myself accountable. One time, we were at a football game and had left the field to warm up. Horrified, I realized that I left my hat on the bench in the rush off the field, but it was too late. So, I waited until we entered again and were watching the cheer team’s performance happen ahead of us. I quickly ran and grabbed my hat. This newfound sense of independence that I had transferred over to my classes as well—I did not need someone supervising me for when I did poorly on an assignment or test because I was already looking ahead at the next steps and how to improve. I figured it out.

Like individual notes joining to create a song, music has come together in many ways throughout my life, playing a crucial part in shaping my expectations, my personality, and whom I choose to be.

East Aurora High School

From East Aurora High School, the recipient was Alan Terrazas!

The Winning Submission

Participating in the performing arts ended up being more beneficial than I anticipated when I first picked up the alto saxophone in fifth grade. Back then, I used to believe that being part of my school’s concert band would only be something to enjoy on the side while I focused on school. However, when I began to take it seriously in high school, it became a whole different story due to the fact that we now had auditions. My personal drive and my rigorous practicing in order to be, and remain, in the top bands ended up helping me improve my quick-thinking abilities, explanation skills, and motivation which proved beneficial in the core classes I took in high school.

Being able to think quickly and critically is a skill that every musician should have. The ability to recognize, prepare, and react to the rhythms as quickly and accurately as possible is critical in either a sight-read or a change in music during rehearsal. Having been doing this for several years helped me greatly in my math and science courses. In these classes there are usually, a lot of material and concepts to cover within a unit meaning they are often fast-paced and usually have a lot of content in their exams. When confronted with a problem, I would quickly recognize what it was asking, I was able to plan the equations necessary, and finally, write everything down. It was because of the quick-thinking skills that were strengthened in the concert band, tests in these courses were a lot easier to complete while still being highly accurate.

Whenever we did not pick up our instruments, we had writing assignments that focused on how a section of music felt and how their musical elements helped enforce that feeling. We developed arguments to prove our claims, similar to how most languages and history courses developed arguments. When working on these assignments, I tried to be as descriptive as possible as music can often be difficult to interpret. This benefited my language and history courses when it came to writing argumentative essays as I would try to use the evidence I found to their full use and explain them thoroughly to help prove my claim. This is shown in my AP test scores as I managed to pass both the English Language and U.S. history exams with a 5 and a 4. If it wasn’t for those assignments, my writing abilities would not be as heightened as they are today.

My motivation took a toll between my sophomore and junior year due to a surgery that I had over the summer. Once I physically healed, the marching band season was only one week away. I hadn’t mentally healed before the marching season began however, little by little I began to feel better and better. Marching with my friends and performing with them helped me get out of my stump and start remembering all of the reasons why I kept pushing forward every day. Being on that field and rehearsing drills got me active again and helped me feel better about myself. I felt so much more motivated that at the end of the year I decided to run for drum major and eventually obtain the position. I would have done my absolute best as drum major if the pandemic didn’t occur. Coming back after my surgery I wasn’t too excited at first, but once I arrived, I felt much better. Being out there helped return my drive to keep improving not only my musicality but in my education and in life as well.

As I mentioned before, being in the performing arts helped me increase my quick thinking, explanation skills, as well as my motivation which led to a benefit for all non-music-related courses. Without the aid of my concert band courses over the past four years, I would not be this well of a student nor be this well a musician. As a result, I see myself going to a four-year college next year and beginning my studies to become a pediatrician where I can put the abilities I gained into full use.

Kaneland High School

From Kaneland High School, the recipient was Maxine Ocampo!

The Winning Submission

Being involved with the performing arts all throughout high school has greatly assisted me in my core educational classes. This is because being a part of the arts program has helped me come out of my shell and express myself more. Back when I was a freshman, I was a pretty quiet kid who mostly kept to herself. However, after four years of participating in marching band, winter percussion, percussion ensemble, and seven theater productions, I can confidently say that I am not the same shy student that I used to be. By being more comfortable and open with my band and theater families, I started to gain more confidence in myself, which in turn helped me be a more active student during my day-to-day classes. I started being more involved in class discussions, became more open to collaborating with other students when it came to classwork, and took more initiative in group projects than I previously would. My leadership skills are also another reason for this, as I have greatly improved upon these skills from being given leadership roles in theater, such as student director and stage manager. By being placed in these positions, I learned how to take control over certain situations when needed and how to properly lead a group of people. I also learned what type of leader I strive to be, which is someone who takes care of those they are responsible for and makes sure that nobody feels left out in any way. After growing into a more active student who is more confident in herself and more open to communicating and connecting with others, I currently feel ready to take on the next chapter of my life beyond high school, and I have the performing arts to thank for that.

Geneva Community High School

From Geneva Community High School, the recipient was Hannah Bolender!

The Winning Submission

The impact on Music in my Education

At age six, I attended my first violin lesson, slowly learning the building blocks to becoming the musician that I am today. My teacher was strict but taught me to strive for my best. In the seventh grade, I participated in my first youth symphony. There, we dissected Dvorak’s New World Symphony by its “chapters”, articulating the colors and emotions that the music communicated. In taking music theory for the first time, math finally felt applicable. As a teacher with six violin students, I’ve learned the value of education firsthand, and how to cater a lesson to the best of a student’s needs.

These music concepts flowed directly into academic strengths, and I found myself using the same tools in high school. I studied in the same way that I learned a piece, made use of auditory and visual techniques, and never hesitated to ask for clarification. More specifically, the learning curve of violin has taught me how to tackle physics with patience and practices Symphony rehearsals taught me the value of deep analysis that I now carry through my passion for literature and writing. It has driven my interest in the government, and I hope to carry that through law school. My participation in school orchestra, music theory classes, and community arts programs has left me a toolbox of resources, ultimately making me a strong, confident, and articulate voice in my community.

2021 Awards Poster - Submissions must be postmarked by April 16, 2021

The Chris Patterson Memorial Foundation is currently accepting submissions for the 2021 Chris Patterson Performing Arts Awards. This will be the 5th year these awards have been given out at local high schools. This year’s schools include West Aurora High School, Batavia High School, East Aurora High School, Kaneland, and Geneva High School. For more information about the awards and how to apply please visit our Performing Arts Award page at https://cpmfdev.patterson.red/performing-arts-award/ Submissions must be postmarked by April 16, 2021, to be eligible for consideration.

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.