WHS ‘Finest Hour’ was FAC doubleheader in concerts

ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” article. It is an editorial by the editor.

Sir Winston Churchill, while praising the British Air Force for holding off the German Luftwaffe’s attack on London, called it “Britain’s Finest Hour.” U.S. President Richard Nixon surprisingly more than 30 years later made the same claim about the troops when he announced the beginning of the Vietnamization program to end the War in Vietnam.

So what is Wayland’s “Finest Hour.”

These seats were nearly packed to the gills in March 2013 when the Wayland High School Orchestra and the Grand Rapids Symphony performed a “Side by Side” concert at the Wayland High School Fine Arts Center, in what I believe to be Wayland’s finest hour.

There are many public relations campaigns and efforts that focus on community or school pride in attempts to build spirit de corps where we live.

The intent is to promote love for our communities or schools where we live, and the rewards can be great. But such campaigns can be difficult when the news lately so often isn’t good.

I personally have asked myself if there’s been a time when I burst with pride most about my town or my school system.

Most people in the Wayland area would say they’ve been most proud when their school has won some kind of athletic championship. We’re understandably impressed with these kinds of successes that even the signs at the entrance of our borders make it be known that the Wayland High softball teams won state championships in 2006 and 2015. We also have crowed about debate and forensic titles and runner-up finishes, and people in these parts have been visibly proud of our Wildcat girls’ basketball teams, volleyball teams and boys’ basketball teams, like the 1955 state runners-up.

The notion that athletic have a lot to do with bringing us together in pride is a no-brainer as old as high school competitions themselves. Yet my personal favorite times in which I was “Proud to be a Wildcat” were when I personally witnessed the greatest demonstration of the Wayland High School Fine Arts Center — the students’ “side-by-side orchestral concerts with the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra, which took place in March 2013 and again in May 2016.

I can’t think of any other times that I was more proud of being an alum of Wayland High School, and I was never more proud of the supportive community, the faculty and the students, who proved this little former “Cow Town of Wayland” could show so much class.

The Grand Rapids Symphony used this public relations outreach bonanza to provide “an opportunity to support and increase public awareness of the fine high school orchestra programs in the Greater Grand Rapids area,” according to its own public relations service.

Karen Nofsinger, then the director of the orchestral program at Wayland schools, was quoted as saying, “This experience will stay with these students for the rest of their lives. It will be an amazing evening.”

And it was. If you need a good example of what quality education can do and boost local pride in what we’ve got here, this is as prime an example as winning an athletic state championship. It’s just that we celebrate it differently.

The concert wasn’t free. The cost at the gate was $10 per adult, $5 per student and there was financial support locally from United Bank and the Kevin Hodel State Farm Agency.

Of course, the GR Symphony had to make the contributions of showing up for rehearsals and the concert and Associate Conductor John Varineau did a fine job of teaching and encouraging the students and explaining what was happening to members of the audience, which I’m happy to say packed ‘em in at the FAC.

Now I wonder if something like this memorable event could happen again. It once again could be a positive showcase for students and the music program, a quality opportunity to lure the younger listeners to DeVos Hall in Grand Rapids and provide a wholesome family night out for so many that has been so lacking in these troubled times.

So I ask Supt. Dr. Christina Hinds and Orchestra Director Kyle Pitcher, himself a Wayland High School graduate, is there anything that be done to bring back the magic?

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