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Sylvan-Lucas band toots own horn

9/13/2012

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

HUTCHINSON -- The word tradition comes up a lot while talking about the successful music program in the Sylvan school district in Sylvan Grove.

Keeping with that tradition, a large percentage of the Sylvan-Lucas High School student body participated Monday, at the first of three marching band days at the Kansas State Fair.

The list of 45 involved in band at Sylvan-Lucas High School is nearly 75 percent of the school's enrollment. When you add the 30-some junior high students who join high-schoolers later in the year, the Mustang band is larger than the entire high school enrollment of 61.

By comparison, Hays Middle School -- enrollment 602 -- took approximately 60 band members to Wednesday's marching band day.

"Wow!," Marcus Bishop, longtime band director at HMS, said when he heard of the Sylvan-Lucas numbers in band. "That's great for that size of school. They must have a really good tradition."

Indeed.

That tradition started 35 years ago when Janet Seehafer, fresh out of college from Bethany College in Lindsborg, returned to her high school alma mater at Sylvan Grove to teach vocal and instrumental music.

Except for a short stint at nearby Tipton, Seehafer has spent her entire career in Sylvan, where for many years she taught music in kindergarten through 12th grades and now still teaches grades 5 through 12.

Starting them young

"My kids grew up watching the older ones, and they really want to do (music)," said Ramie Schulteis, mother of two Sylvan grads and current high school sophomore Tim Schulteis.

"Over time, she has built the program," Schulteis said of Seehafer. "She's a great music teacher, and going to the state fair is a fun tradition."

Another fun tradition each year at Sylvan is a musical, which this year is going to be "Footloose," scheduled for mid-November.

"A full musical, every year. And she is so good about helping kids out to get ready for state music (contests)," Schulteis said of Seehafer, who also gives private lessons.

Like most small schools, students at Sylvan-Lucas participate in a multitude of school activities, thus at times having to choose between two going on at the same time.

For example, all six cheerleaders accompanying the band to the fair Monday performed a dance instead of playing their instrument.

Unfortunately for the Mustangs, all those play woodwind instruments, leaving the band short in that area because the junior high students didn't make the trip to Hutchinson.

"That kind of wiped us out," Seehafer said with a laugh.

Nonetheless, the Mustangs still received a 1 rating and two high 2s from the three judges, resulting in a 2-plus average.

"(Judges) gave 32 ratings and only three 1s all day," Seehafer said. "So I was happy with the 2-plus."

All in a day's work

Sylvan-Lucas is a consolidated school that draws from eight small towns in three different counties. Those who come to school from so many different directions can't just run home quickly if they forget something.

Such was the case Monday.

When sophomore Collin Herold from Lucas walked up to Seehafer in the parking lot of the fairgrounds and told her he had forgotten his red band shirt, she took it all in stride.

"It was an honest mistake, and this is his first year in band," Seehafer said of Herold, who plays the snare drum. "I had an extra (red) shirt with me, but it was a small size, so I told him to help out in other ways and chalk it up to experience."

Taylor Workman, a senior making her seventh straight trip to the fair with her school band, wasn't surprised at Seehafer's response.

"She understands a lot of things and gets along with everyone," Workman said. "She's a great band teacher, a great teacher."

Ryan Schulteis, now a freshman playing in Fort Hays State University's marching band, agreed.

"She was the main reason I continued to stay with music all those years," said Schulteis, a baritone who received a non-music major scholarship to FHSU. "She makes it a lot of fun, and a lot of kids want to go out."

The feeling is mutual for Seehafer, who retired in the spring of 2011 but came back to teach part-time the next fall semester.

"I just really like it, like working with the kids. And I'd like to slip out to Hays to see (Schulteis) play sometime this fall," Seehafer said. "It's kind of like a coach who has an athlete go on to the next level. It makes you so happy that they are able to do that."