By Sabrina Hornung
Trudy Wolf is a woman of many hats and has been making waves since she came to Zeeland Public schools in 1993. Zeeland, located in south central North Dakota, had 87 residents according to the 2019 census, and is just a hop, skip, and a jump from the South Dakota border.
Wolf started out as just the music teacher. “Then a few years later, I added librarian to it, and then a number of years later, I added elementary principal, and then secondary principal... And then three years ago, I became the superintendent, but I gave up the two principal jobs. So currently, I'm the superintendent, the music teacher, and the librarian.”
The students in Zeeland have participated in a number of music festivals this year, in fact they were just in Minot and Dickinson last month. There was an audition process to get into both festivals, in Minot there are two bands and two choirs that the students are placed in and in Dickinson there is one band and two choirs.
Wolf stressed that these were not competitive competitions, in fact they’re collaborative and the students participate as a group. She says that the students usually come back from these events inspired.
There was a time, she recalled, when almost all of the schools in this area went to that Dickinson festival. “I think as band directors retired over the years, and were replaced by new ones, that kind of fell away one by one. And since I've been here so long, I think I'm the last one that still goes to that Dickinson festival, but at one time like Ashley went, and Strasburg went, I think Linton, Pollock and all of the schools here would go to that festival. Like I said, it sort of went away over the years. So now we're the only ones from this area that go there. But of course they have schools from Montana attend that one and schools from the western part of the state attend.”
Wolf didn’t originally plan on pursuing a career in music or education, but during her senior year in high school, a number of people had asked her to give their children piano lessons and she was hooked. “I tried to talk them out of it at first, because you know, it's just just high school, Senior Night, never given lessons before and they were local, but you know, they know you and all that other stuff. So we went in. And I found that I really looked forward to everybody's lessons every week, it was kind of exciting to watch all the kids learn. I think, around January, I was walking to the test site for where we take our ACT tests, and I was contemplating my future, like you do, and I knew that whatever I was doing, I was planning to continue playing and, you know, playing and being involved in music, when it just kind of occurred to me that I could teach music, and then I would always be involved in music.”
Each year she attends the Midwest band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, where nearly 14,000 band and orchestra directors are in attendance. This year she will be presenting a session on working with small bands with incomplete instrumentation. “I was surprised I was invited. I had presented this session at our state music teachers convention, and some people there were involved with Midwest. So they invited me to apply at the Midwest Clinic, and to my surprise, I was accepted. It's the kind of thing I would have never, never thought to do on my own. If somebody hadn't come up and said, You know what, this was pretty good. And we think you should apply.”
When asked how many kids are involved in the Zeeland music program she replied, without hesitation and with a slight smile, “All of them.” There are currently ten kids in band and fourteen in choir.
In 2021, five students graduated from Zeeland. “It's one of the advantages of being a small school. I have them from preschool on. So I have all those years to teach them and train them and to work on matching pitch and reading music. I don't have to go gee, well they showed up in my class in seventh grade and didn't know anything. I know – I've already taught them in elementary – the things they need to do.”
Their last concert of the year was December 13 and afterward there was a Christmas craft and goodies auction. Proceeds supported the Zeeland Booster Club and went toward supporting activities at the school. These students are no strangers to creative fundraising techniques. Recently, the K-3 students made a trip to the sales barn in nearby Herreid, South Dakota, to auction off pies to fundraise for a new playground.
So, what’s next for the Zeeland music program?
When Virginia Schweigert of Zeeland, mother of well known UND coach Bubba Schweigert, passed away, her family requested that memorial donations be made to the Zeeland music program. As a token of appreciation, some of that money was used to commission a song from Eureka-based composer Paul Kohler to serve as a memorial to Mrs. Schweigert. The song will include parts of two of her favorite songs. Kohler will come in to work with the students and talk about what goes into music composition. The premier of this piece of music is set to be performed at their spring music program in February or early March.
July 20th 2022
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