#1StudentNWI February at Griffith High School

#1StudentNWI February at Griffith High School
By: Liana Boulles Last Updated: February 28, 2020

What’s Happening: Small High School Band Festival

On February 22, Griffith Bands participated in Valparaiso University’s Small High School Band Festival, which took place at the Chapel of Resurrection. Griffith students comprised approximately 30% of the ensemble, which first convened and rehearsed at noon before performing later that day. They were directed by Valparaiso’s legendary director Dr. Jeffrey Scott Doebler and played five songs, all composed by popular band composer Michael Boo: “Fanfare March,” “Harmonious World,” “Wings of Flight,” “Scenes from the Colosseum,” and “Caribbean Beach.” Valparaiso’s Trombone Choir played in between songs. 

Dr. Doebler started the Small High School Band Festival in 2003 to give smaller high school bands a chance to play in a large wind ensemble. He chose the music to honor Boo, who was invited to attend the concert but could not make it due to illness. Doebler had a busy day leading two concerts, after rehearsing and conducting the Small High School Band Festival, he directed the Community Band Festival’s sensory-friendly concert at 5 p.m.

“I wanted to give students who are in smaller high school bands and students in our middle bands a chance to play together in a big band,” said Dr. Doebler. “I think everyone should get a chance to play their whole lives. In our community band, some of the people are 70 or older; some went to big high schools, others came from little, but just like [Griffith], they got started in school. 

I’m extra proud of everyone because I picked five songs today, including one that’s super hard, and we’re able to do them all today. I really thought we would get to play four, but they all sound great.” 

GHS band director Virginia Hernandez has known Dr. Doebler for years. She plays in Windiana, one of Valparaiso’s many wind ensembles, which he conducts. When she began teaching at Griffith, Dr. Doebler contacted her about the Small High School Band Festival early in the year. 

“I thought the process and concert were amazing,” said Hernandez. “All of his events are a great experience. I wanted to give my band students this opportunity to play in a large ensemble and a new view of what a rehearsal looks like, as well as a positive and fulfilling musical experience that motivates them to want to play more.”

Dr. Doebler will be sending Hernandez a student teacher in the fall. Hernandez encourages her students to check Valparaiso University’s Community Band and Windiana, both of which are conducted by Dr. Doebler and available to any local musicians regardless of their age or major. 

Student Spotlight

On February 1, Griffith High School’s Girls Varsity Bowling Team, under the leadership of coach Linda Olszewski, became State and Conference Champions, with junior Morgan Schoon and sophomore Chelsea Matthews as first and third state champions in singles, respectively. After months of practice and team bonding, starting in September, the Girls Team saw glory. They made it through sectionals, regionals, and semi-state before bringing home the ultimate prize from Indianapolis. In June, they will be competing at nationals, the first Griffith team to do so.

Junior Brianna Langel joined the bowling team at the beginning of her freshman year. 

“I was excited to try something new,” said Langel. “Before freshman year I had never bowled before, but Elisabeth [Lawson] talked me into it. There were seniors on the team, only five on varsity, and seven on the junior varsity.”

Langel bowls third position, which is nicknamed glue. According to Langel, glue is a good bowler who acts as the team motivator. If the first and second bowlers perform poorly, it’s up to the third player to keep the team spirits up. It’s a taxing position at times, but Langel is devoted to keeping her team’s morale, as well as her own, up. She frequently found herself acting as a cheerleader during the stressful weeks of tournament and state. 

“Last season we had really bad attitudes; we would think we weren’t going to make it, and it dragged us down because it made us really upset. We would not cheer for each other or help each other and always think it was a competition between the whole team. But this year we fixed our mental attitudes and began working as a team,” she said. “We would have team bonding whenever we won; the team has a huge sleepover and we hang out. Because of team bonding, we got closer, and that helped us work together instead of working by ourselves. This year we have better attitudes. We work together so much better now. I see us as a family.” 

Langel placed fourth in singles in sectionals but didn’t make the cut for regionals. She also couldn’t bowl during state due to a knee injury. However, Langel will be bowling at nationals. 

“I made sure everyone was happy and having fun in singles. We were cheering and being loud,” she said.

At state, after team bowling, the competition went into step ladder, which means that the conference takes the top three teams from boys and girls and they have to compete for first place. Griffith varsity girls placed third in the step ladder but beat out the other two teams, becoming state champions and national competitors. 

“I definitely felt anxious [throughout the process],” Langel said. “I was confident that we would make it, but I was nervous because we were bowling against so many great teams. [When we won], I felt the stress lifted off of my shoulders. It was one of the greatest feelings because we came so far.”

Right now, the team is preparing for nationals and practices every Thursday; some girls also bowl every Saturday for the local bowling league. They practice picking up spares, eliminating pins they didn’t knock down on the first try. They work on corner pins, only hitting the seventh pins and tenth pins, the hardest ones to get, are crucial to master in a pinch. 

Langel is a junior this year, but she hopes to get scouted by Indiana University or Purdue Northwest for bowling and wants to study dermatology. 

“Through bowling, I’ve gotten happier than I was because I get to work on a team and not by myself,” Langel said. “The fact that we’re so close together is amazing.”

Teacher Spotlight

Luann Pramuk has been teaching history at Griffith for 23 years. She teaches AP U.S. History, U.S. History, and World History, but she’s also licensed to teach economics, sociology, and psychology. Known for her easy-going personality and friendship with fellow social studies teacher Jenna Berzy, Pramuk is a favorite among teachers and students and a cemented pillar of the community. 

She’s taught at Griffith for half of her life, formed lifelong friendships with fellow faculty and former students, and raised her own family with love and support from Griffith families. 

Pramuk was a business major in college, but she decided that working in Chicago was not what she wanted. Instead, she became a social studies teacher, since her economics credits gave her a head start. Most importantly, she always loved history and has a sister who went into teaching, inspiring her to do the same. 

“Learning history is important so we can understand the world today,” Pramuk said. “Without knowledge of the past, we cannot understand today. Also, a major part of learning history is learning to think historically. It improves one's critical thinking skills. There are many sides to history and learning about past events and viewing them from all sides will create a better understanding of society today.”   

Pramuk does not rely on electronics or videos to teach. Instead, she has her students take notes and lectures to them like a college professor. She encourages them to examine all sides of history and why different people thought or acted a certain way. Her main goal is to instill a sense of learning and offer them a safe place in a changing world. 

Additionally, Pramuk has been politically active on behalf of teachers’ rights. She marched in #RedForEd protests, including the rally in Indianapolis.

“I hope Indiana teachers will eventually be respected by the government,” she said. “We are in the classrooms, we see the needs every day of our students. I hope our voices will be heard!”

Pramuk’s favorite part of teaching is her interactions with students. She loves hearing about their lives and does her best to make a positive impact on them. Many of her past students look back on her classes fondly. In fact, she has been invited to multiple former students weddings and baby showers. 

“At the end of the day, I don’t see myself as only a history teacher,” she said. I want them to know that I care more about them than I care about their class scores. Every year, I find myself being more hopeful and scared for the future. I see the potential in my students but I also see so much wasted time on social media. Being a teacher has impacted the way I raise my daughter. The future can be very bright and very scary.”

What's Coming Up

ISSMA State Solo and Ensemble will be on February 29. Juniors and twins A’reya and A’rion Davis will be performing a flute solo and trumpet solo, and a trumpet ensemble will test their skills against rigorous criteria. The GHS band winter concert is March 18, where they will perform the music they’ll play at ISSMA in April. 

Spring Break is March 23 to March 27, and students and teachers will travel to Portugal to learn about its history and culture. 

Rehearsals for the spring musical, Shrek, are warming up. Shrek will open on April 24 and will run through April 26.