SJHS orchestra program to compete in national competition

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — After three months of dedication, about two dozen St. Joseph High School students will put the fruits of their labor on display Friday.

The St. Joseph High School Chamber Ensemble leaves for Pittsburgh on Thursday morning for a six-hour drive to the National Orchestra Festival.

Burke Lokey, orchestra director for the ensemble, said they will compete against 14 other schools in their category. These other students come from highs schools in California, Texas, Ohio and New York.

“The students are thrilled to be a part of this. They’ve worked tremendously hard in class as well as on their own after school,” Lokey said. “A lot of this competition will be from bigger schools with huge programs. This is great to chance to represent not only the school but out whole community.”

The competition is part of the American String Teacher Association, which the district’s orchestra program has taken part in once before when they traveled to Atlanta in 2012.

Since the annual competition was closer this year, Lokey said they decided to take part again.

“I teach the kids from sixth grade until they are seniors,” he said. “I could see this group coming for a few years. I knew they would be ready for something like this.”

Bean Klusendorf is an English teacher at the high school and a parent chaperone for the ensemble, which will be joining the students in Pittsburgh for Friday and Saturday.

Most of the kids in the ensemble have been her students at some point. Her son was in the orchestra during the ensemble’s first trip to the competition. Now her daughter will go during the school’s second trip.

“Being at the competition means I’ll be seeing them at their very best,” Klusendorf said. “I love the concerts, but the competitions are when they are energized and ready to be their very best.”

Among the 24 students in the orchestra, they range in age from 10th to 12th grade. The ensemble will have four pieces to play from that will run a total playing time between 30 and 40 minutes.

“For a school of our size, this is a phenomenal opportunity,” Klusendorf said. “It’s really unusual for a public school our size to have a program at this caliber in the first place.”

The four pieces of music the ensemble will play Friday includes sets from Antonio Vivaldi, Antonin Dvorak, Edvard Grieg and a modern piece by John Corigliano.

The pieces were chosen by Lokey, who teaches orchestra at the high school in the morning and at the middle school in the afternoon.

“They are real works of music. This is professional-level music,” Lokey said Wednesday. “Rehearsing a piece is like painting. There’s always little things we can work on. We recorded a video last night and I’ve been making notes. I knew this group would be able to do this. They are playing as a unit, which is hard to do.”

The students who make up the ensemble had a chance to test out their finished product Tuesday night, when they played their set at the Box Factory.

Klusendorf referred to the send-off concert as “a final run through for preparation.”

While in Pittsburgh, students will take some classes put on by various professors as part of the national festival. One of the classes includes jam sessions with other students in the country.

“I like competition, but the reason we do this is because of the preparation they’ve done. That’s the meat of it. Everything else is icing on the cake,” Lokey said. “In a time when (fine) arts are a little bit under appreciated, we are lucky to be in a community that supports the arts. These kids are taking these instruments that are not an iPad and are creating magic with them.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 2, 2017)

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Board anticipates new projects next year

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

STEVENSVILLE — With a month left until the fiscal year turns over, Lincoln Township trustees discussed what they liked for next year’s budget.

The board met for a special meeting Tuesday in order to openly discuss the proposed budget.

The meeting was turned over to Clerk Stacy Loar-Porter, who went through the larger items in the proposed budget.

Among the topics were major improvements for the parks system, replacing the 20-year-old heating and air conditioning system at the Township Hall, and matching a grant for the non-motorized path on Roosevelt Road.

“We don’t have any major increases in any of the departments,” Loar-Porter said. “We have some big projects we have been saving for.”

The board scheduled the special meeting because a budget needs to be passed before the start of the fiscal year, which begins April 1.

Trustee Marc Florian was the only one absent for the meeting, but he passed along his thoughts for several budgeted items to Loar-Porter.

“We anticipate adding about $120,000 to our fund balance in this current year,” Loar-Porter said. “Next year we expect to dip into it because we delayed some projects to save some extra money.”

Loar-Porter said she will put together a packet of the township’s proposed budget and have it available to the public by March 6 at the Township Hall.

The next board meeting is at 7 p.m. March 14. At the meeting, the township will hold a public hearing for the proposed budget.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 1, 2017)

As easy as eBay: Residents discover eBay tutorial at Lincoln Township library

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Brian Johnston, head of public services at the Lincoln Township Public Library, discusses the merits of eBay during a workshop on Tuesday inside the library’s conference room. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

STEVENSVILLE — Susan Craw has a few books she wants to sell and was looking for a proper venue to distribute them.

Then she heard about the eBay class the Lincoln Township Public Library was holding Tuesday.

Craw, a Stevensville resident, said this was the second type of computer class she has taken with the library.

“I’ve always heard of eBay and I have some things I need to have sold to declutter my house. I have these huge books. A couple of them are really nice Walt Disney ones. I wanted to see if there was anything I could get from them.”

Craw said she was surprised by the fee that eBay takes out of the sales figure. She’s also still a bit unsure of how to go about choosing the best keywords for her books.

Brian Johnston, head of public services at the library, led the class with a projection presentation and a few stories from his experiences with eBay.

Johnston started doing these classes in 2012, which have since ranged from four-part tutorials on Microsoft Word and Excel to a lesson in Google Sites.

“When I came here, we were doing a few basic computer classes. When I started here, I took it and ran with it. These classes have really become my niche here.”

The computer classes require registration and limits the participant’s age at 13. Several laptops are handed out to those who don’t have them.

Johnston does all his classes at least three times a year. He said he’s probably taught his eBay class about 15 or 20 times by now.

The structure of the class has changed over the time, as Johnston said he’s learned what participants are more interested in.

When he was new at doing this, Johnston said he discovered he would go too fast a lot of the time.

The breakdown of the auctions and even registering to the website were covered in the nearly two-hour class.

Through feedback on the evaluations he hands out at the beginning of class, Johnston said he’s learned to put more of a focus on the selling aspect of eBay.

“When people sign up for the class, a lot of them want to know more about selling, whether that be shipping or doing the right things so it reaches more people online.”

Craw fits into that fold. She said she enjoyed the class, but isn’t looking to buy anything from the third-party website.

“Are you kidding? I don’t need anything else,” Craw said smiling. “I’m decluttering. I need to sell my stuff.”

Johnston said he enjoys helping the participants and hopes his efforts will make people feel comfortable about using eBay.

He said for those who are unfamiliar with technology, there’s an underlying fear that they might get a computer virus or give away personal information.

“I get a lot of people who take my classes who are new to computers,” he said after the class was over Tuesday. “When you’ve lived a good portion of your life without this technology and you’re then expected to know how to use it, that can be scary for folks. I want them to walk out of here, feeling empowered with the information I’ve given them.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 1, 2017)