ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
With some exceptions, the arts and activities programs at Canton-Galva High School have been in a building mode this year.
The Class 2A school doesn’t offer the traditional FFA, debate and forensics programs that many larger schools do, but it is seeing new leadership emerging in other areas, especially the arts.
Bill Olson’s biggest goal in his first year as director of vocal and instrumental music is to bring stability to those programs.
“The program I inherited was not used to any consistency in regard to teachers, having had five music teachers in the last eight years,” said Olson, who is in his ninth year in teaching. “So I’m first of all trying to establish consistency. They haven’t had maturity in the job and certainly I bring that.”
In vocal music, Olson is directing one high school choir of 22 members. Because he is starting essentially from square one, Olson has opted not to enter his choir in the traditional spring regional and state contests.
“This is my first year here,” he said. “I’m just getting to know the kids and we’re concentrating on other things. I didn’t see it in our best interest to go to contest this year, but we’ll try to go next year.”
A highlight for the year is the annual spring music contest that involves vocal and instrumental groups from both the middle school and the high school-all under Olson’s direction. This year’s contest is scheduled for May 2.
The story is similar for the instrumental program, where numbers are traditionally even more critical to a school’s success.
“The high school band has 17 members and limited instrumentation-but they’re all average to better-than-average players,” he said.
Even so, the lack of instrumentation will keep them out of the traditional spring contests this year, he said.
“I’ve been working on some other aspects of instrumental music and have gotten them to play some jazz music, since they are a smaller group,” Olson said. “That’s worked out really well for us.”
Olson is optimistic about the future of the program.
“As I see the kids coming up in the next three to four years, instrumentation will fill in and we’ll be able to have a good quality, well-rounded band,” he said.
“All of our sixth graders but one are in beginning band,” Olson added. “They are a real outstanding group. I’m counting on them as my signature group for the future.”
The challenges of building his programs haven’t dampened his enthusiasm for the task.
“It’s a pleasure to work for Canton-Galva school district,” he said. “I like all the administrators and teachers that I work with, and I look forward to coming back next year.”
Gretchen Elliott is in her fifth year in the Canton-Galva art program, which began when she was first hired.
“Each year I’ve added an hour, and the last two years I’ve been full-time at Canton,” Elliott said. “We’ve had one hour of junior high and the rest is all at the high-school level.”
Today, the high school offers four classes in art, beginning with basic concepts and following through to more specialized media.
“By the time students take it for the fourth year, they are doing a lot of independent studies or focusing in an area of interest,” she said.
The program does have a competitive element. This month, Canton-Galva was one of 13 schools that participated in the Heart of America League Art Festival in Goessel.
“We did really well,” Elliott said. “We came home with 14 merits. We could just take 20 (students)-I don’t know that there was a limit (in the number of project entries).”
Elliott said although she encouraged students to enter projects in the festival, interscholastic competition isn’t a key component of her approach.
“I don’t really focus on the show much because, first of all, art is in the eye of the beholder,” she said. “I tell my students (a judge’s evaluation is) one person’s opinion in the whole world, and if someone else would come in, it would be totally a different story.
“Since they haven’t been around that kind of thing very much at Canton, we’re just trying to build a good program,” she added. “I’m trying to teach the importance of the arts. I don’t make a huge issue of the shows.”
Scholars Bowl/Honor Society
Two of the more stable programs in regard to tradition and longevity are Scholars’ Bowl and the National Honor Society that are led by Roberta Hamilton.
Hamilton began Scholars’ Bowl at Canton-Galva in the early 1980s. She took a break from it for a couple of years, but by now has more than 20 years experience with the program.
If medals and team titles are the measurement of a successful season, the 2001-02 squad at CGHS is down a bit from last year.
“Last year we were great and brought home medals from every meet,” she said. “This year we had a hard time getting out of pool play. Some of the kids who were knowledgeable in some of the areas were a little bit slower.”
General intelligence, quick thinking and good recall are key components of a successful quiz team, she said. Much of that has to come naturally to students because Elliott said it’s difficult at a small school to find time to practice.
“The problem is that all these students have so many other commitments that it’s very hard to give them any practice time together,” she said. “I give them a lot of questions and a lot of information for reading, and then they’re sort of left on their own because of the other commitments they have here in a small school.”
This year’s team included two returners with varsity experience and a third student with junior varsity experience. The three regular members of the four-member competing team were Scott Rohr, Cheryl Bishop and John Larson. The fourth spot was filled either by Shanna Roberts and Angela Peppiatt, depending on scheduling conflicts.
A highlight of the season was winning a third-place team trophy in the Class 2A division of the El Dorado High Q Tournament.
For the season, the team of eight students competed in seven varsity meets and one junior varsity meet.
“We need to get more people inviting us so we can go to more meets because I have parents who would take them if I could field two teams,” she said.
Hamilton enjoys leading the program.
“It’s sort of fun to see them be quicker on an answer than I am,” she said.
The National Honor Society chapter at Canton-Galva, meanwhile, has 12 members, Hamilton said.
Students need a minimum 3.5 grade-point average to qualify, even though the national standard is only 3.0. Potential members are also evaluated by a faculty council on the basis of their leadership qualities, service and character.
Potential members are “watched” during their freshman year, with membership offered to qualifying students during their sophomore year.
“If (during following years) they fall below the standard for which they were inducted, then the faculty council will have to meet and decided what is to transpire,” Hamilton said.
The primary activities of the NHS chapter are charitable projects and planning for the all-school academic banquet in spring.
“We don’t try to make any money to speak of except for what we can give away,” Hamilton said. “The money is usually used for some kind of service project. Whatever we make, we donate somewhere.”
For this year’s banquet, scheduled this year for April 29 held at Holiday Manor Convention Center, students will plan the meal, decorate tables, and prepare and send out invitations.
“We don’t decide the awards that are given, but we do all of the leg work,” she said.