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Gym time’s over: Pardeeville excited to turn the page on 50-year concert history

December 17, 2018
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Pardeeville School District middle and high school band director Dan Evans leads a band practice in the high school's gymnasium Thursday. Tuesday's winter concert involving students in grades 5-12 is the school district's final performance in the gym after 50 years.
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Pardeeville School District middle and high school band director Dan Evans leads a band practice in the high school's gymnasium Thursday. Tuesday's winter concert involving students in grades 5-12 is the school district's final performance in the gym after 50 years.

PARDEEVILLE — At first, Sophia Parker had more thoughts about the future than she did the 50-year history of the gymnasium the Pardeeville High School freshman and her bandmates will perform in for the final time Tuesday.

After all, Pardeeville is getting a brand new auditorium and band room equipped with lockers — “actual lockers,” she said — in the spring.

But in the mid-1990s, her father performed in Pardeeville choir concerts — those held in the very same high school gym, something she hadn’t really considered until Wednesday.

Jeremy Parker was a standout choir student, too, she suddenly remembered — so he probably had performed many solos in the gym where Sophia is playing her flute among 200 band and choir students from the district.

“I guess it is pretty neat,” she said.

Her band director agreed.

“The first concerts here occurred around late 1967 or 1968,” Dan Evans said. “So the final concert coincides with the 50th anniversary as we’re gearing up for the new facility.

“It’s an exciting time here.”

Receiving help from 1968 Pardeeville graduate Carol Geike and some longtime Pardeeville educators, Evans learned as much as he could about the first concerts held in the gym. He plans to honor that history Tuesday.

“Carol shared a picture of a young man who in the 1968 spring concert brought in a homemade xylophone,” Evans said. “It’s really interesting that somebody was able to do that. ... David Smith — that was the young man’s name.”

Evans — the band director for grades 5 through 12 since 2006 — picked out music from that time for Tuesday’s concert: his fifth- and sixth-grade band students, for example, will perform “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf. His seventh- and eighth-graders will perform “Love is Blue” by Paul Mauriat “with a harpsichord and everything,” he said.

Pardeeville students will honor the recently deceased Aretha Franklin, too, and they’ll perform an arrangement of songs from the famous Broadway musical, “Hair,” which debuted in late 1967.

“It’s such a great era in music, so why not feature it?” Evans said.

Longtime traditions of the winter concert will be carried on Tuesday: Poinsettias will decorate the stage and the students will cap the concert with a Christmas sing-a-long where the band plays and the choir steps into the crowd, everyone in the gym joined in song.

“It’s a sentimental thing because so many of our citizens played in that gym,” Superintendent Gus Knitt said of honoring its 50-year history. The entire high school building was constructed in 1967, and prior to that, the high school was located in the current elementary building, Knitt noted.

But history pales in comparison to what’s next.

“A lot of people will be happy they don’t need to sit in bleachers anymore,” Knitt said.

School Board President Margo Pufahl and her husband Barry Pufahl have lived in Pardeeville for 39 years and they, too, preferred to think about the future. Barry Pufahl had worked in the district as a teacher or administrator from 1971 to 2002 and the two of them had four children attend school in Pardeeville, all four of them playing in band and choir.

“It is nostalgic for us and others,” Margo Pufahl said, “but it’s a yay-boo sort of thing. We’re sorry to leave the old but the new is imminent.

“Nobody will need to set up chairs that say ‘Reserved for senior citizens’ on the back. I’m a senior, and that’s fine, but doggone I don’t need to advertise it.”

The new 35,000-square-foot and 500-seat auditorium is already booked solid in the ensuing weeks following the May 4 dedication ceremony, Knitt said. Buzz for the school district’s spring concerts and for the possibilities yet to be realized is palpable. The building itself now is now enclosed and heated as construction workers fine-tune mechanical systems, plumbing and electrical.

“Music and theater students will enjoy it. It will be their place,” Barry Pufahl said. “Not a place for basketball or volleyball, but their place — their place for the fine arts.”

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