The Kenyon-Wanamingo Speech Team began it season on a positive note. At its first meet of the season Feb. 1 they received a first-place trophy in the small school division.
Coaches Rebecca Kunesh and Heidi Hanson lead the team composed of three seventh-graders, Jordan Blowers, Charlie Koncur and Addison Donkers; three ninth-graders, Grace Nystuen, Sophia Culuris and Ashley Rechtzigel; three 10th-graders, Elliot Olson, Lucas Brezina and Sydney Sundin; and one senior, Isabelle Bump. For the next nine Saturdays, students will give their speeches three times, in some cases four, per meet. Each student gives their speech three times per meet; in some cases it is given four. There is one judge per room, giving students other opportunities to present their speech if they mess up or go up against all of the top people in one room.
“We try to spread out our numbers to cover more categories, so we have more opportunities to place,” Kunesh said. “You do differently at every meet, because you never know what’s going to happen with speech.”
There are 13 categories students can choose from. Some categories K-W students are a part of include serious poetry, serious prose, duo, dramatic interpretation, humorous interpretation, creative expression and great speeches. In these categories, students interpret a story, poem, speech or other selection written by a published or famous author.
Since holding a formal practice time would not be too successful since many of the team members are in other activities, they set up a time to meet with Hanson and Kunesh during the week to run over speeches and get critiques.
Students are judged on criteria for presenting, characterization, clarity of words, making eye contact, script use, poise, pacing, annunciation, interpretation and presenting the specific character in all its ways. While certain judging criteria depend on the category, there are also different time limits, but Kunesh said extemporaneous speeches are typically 7 minutes.
Supporting one another
Olson enjoys meeting different people at the competitions, which Hanson says is something some may not see throughout different sporting events.
”When you go to a competition, like a volleyball tournament, you don’t talk to your competitors,” Hanson said. “But really, in speech, everyone supports one another. They are your competitors, but they aren’t here to take you down.”
Along with the growing support from other competitors, Kunesh said as a coach she has seen students make tremendous growth in confidence.
“There’s a growth in confidence, no matter what you do, which transfers over into real life situations, like if you have to give a speech at a wedding or for a job interview,” Kunesh said. “It gives you that little bit of confidence, because there’s always that little fear when you get up there and do it, but knowing you’ve done it before gives you the little boost of confidence you need. They learn and grow in many ways.”
Since public speaking is known as something many fear, Hanson laughed, recalling one team sporting the slogan, ‘We do for fun what others fear more than death’ on their shirts. She later says that speech is beneficial in many ways, posing the question, “When don’t you need to talk?”
For Sundin, becoming a member of the speech team has helped her confidently present during class.
“In seventh grade before I joined, I couldn’t get up in front of the classroom to do a presentation without shaking or stumbling on my words,” Sundin said. “Now I can get up in front of the judge or my peers and give a speech without shaking. Inside I am still nervous but I don’t show it.”
Kunesh said the team strives to stay timely and relevant with speech topics and selections, keeping things fresh and always adding new angles.
Nystuen’s serious prose speech requires her to take a book, cut up the content, make it into her own and take on one of the character’s personalities. Her topic is about a boy who has synesthesia, meaning he views his entire world through numbers, colors and textures, including how he communicates with everyone. Trying to give a speech about someone who who has a trouble communicating with the world is a big task for Nystuen, Kunesh said.
Even though it may be challenging, Nystuen enjoys her topic and sees it as an opportunity to depict something that isn’t as intense as other people’s topics. She said everyone typically picks something like depression, suicide or school shootings, which can become very over the top. The Serious Prose category has to be serious in tone, and Kunesh said they stay true to what the theme is about, making sure not to cross the line into dramatic interpretation.
As a second-year member of the team, Nystuen said that she has taken on the role of mentoring Blowers, who is a first-year member competing in the same category as Nystuen.
“Last year at the first meet I had no idea what I was doing,” Nystuen said. “Now that we are doing it together, I feel like I can help Jordan out more, something I wish I had last year.”
Blowers has chosen a story about the cycle of immigration through the lens of a child. The story depicts a setting where the children have to hide from a bus while working in the vineyard, also going into the experience where the child goes to school unable to speak English.
Olson and Brezina are in the humorous duo category together, performing a humorous satire about a parody of politics with the president of the United States and the prime minister, written in 2008. It depicts the two meeting and discussing policies, also threatening to blow each other up later, but later deciding that everything was fine and calling each other “bros.” Kunesh said that even though it was not written in today’s political climate, it often parallels with the current atmosphere, becoming very relevant. Although the duo doesn’t directly play off of that, as an audience members can make that connection.
As someone who enjoys writing stories, Sundin has taken part in the Poetry Category for two years. She has seen many different poems and in the past has chosen a few humorous and serious pieces. In this category, several poems are brought together in one cohesive piece. The poems can have the same individual theme, as long as they fit together in the overall theme of the poem. This year, Sundin wanted to tap into the timely relevant topic mental health through poetry. She begins the poem with what it’s like having mental health issues, followed by advice that is commonly heard, such as “you’ll be fine” or “just get over it,” among many others, ended by the hope that circles around the topic.
Other topics students have chosen are a Rose Kennedy speech, the “Wicked Witch of the West’s” side of the story,” “Great Speeches” by Rose Thunberg, in which Rechtzigel analyzes and breaks down her speech, indicating the different appeals she is making and what points she is trying to make. One student’s topic is about a kid regretting the things posted on social media, while another topic may be on the relevant topic of mental health in farming.
The K-W Speech Team competes against Hiawatha Valley League Conference Schools, plus several other schools around the area. Although they compete against each other, awards and hardware are dependent on the school system, as K-W is in the small school division.
“We hold our own pretty good when there’s 13 categories,” Kunesh said. “We are getting some younger people involved. We started small, but we are slowly growing with three seventh-graders and three ninth-graders who were first year last year.”
The Kenyon-Wanamingo High School Band hosted the Hiawatha Valley Conference Band Clinic on Feb. 5, where they worked with college band conductors on improving their pieces.
Along with K-W, students from Cannon Falls, Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Pine Island and Goodhue school districts worked with clinicians James Patrick Miller from Gustavus Adolphus College and Michael Thursby from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
HVL Band Clinics rotate each year to different schools, and since K-W hosted the clinic this year, 11th-grade band member Katie VanEpps said that they will host the large group contest next year.
Each band’s clinic session lasted 45 minutes and included them playing their musical selections before the clinicians stepped in. Throughout the day, K-W band members were busy listening to other bands perform and learning from their feedback, while juniors and seniors were helping with “behind the scenes” tasks.
K-W Band Director Claire Larson said that adds to the student’s overall experience since it engages the juniors and seniors in managing the stage, moving chairs and music stands, recording the performances, changing the PowerPoint presentation which described the selections the bands were performing and helping out wherever needed.
Insights and advice
The K-W band was the first group of the day to perform. They played “Unraveling” by Andrew Boysen Jr., “Heaven’s Light” by Steven Reineke and “Arabesque” by Samuel Hazo — three pieces they are set to perform in the large group contest March 3 in Randolph. After their performance, Miller, a highly regarded gust conductor and clinician, began going through each piece, giving them pointers to make their performances even stronger. He is the conductor of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra at Gustavus, and has worked with more than 65,000 high school students in workshops and festivals from California to Maine.
Miller encouraged the band to “attack” the piece, “go to work and carve it out to be absolutely perfect,” while Thursby urged them to always keep their ears engaged in the music and listen to the people playing around them, especially to those who don’t share the same instruments/similar sounding instruments.
Since playing in the High School Band as an eighth-grader, VanEpps said the band clinics give the group good insight and advice that helps in many different ways.
“The conductors always give such good insight,” VanEpps said. “You can just go miles with the advice they give you. Then later you think, ‘Oh, that’s something I haven’t considered’.”
A worthwhile experience
Ninth-grade band members saw the clinic as an opportunity to not only gain input on their pieces, but also to gain experience performing in a large group setting, since the March 3 contest will be their first band contest.
Sophia Culuris and Ashley Rechtzigel agree that it is good to know beforehand what it may be like, so they can be prepared.
While 10th-grader Arin Kyllo enjoys hearing different input from a conductor who doesn’t hear their music on a daily basis, she added that it’s nice to hear a fresh perspective.
Seniors Shelby Noah and Gabby Bauer agree that getting feedback before the contest is vital so they are able to improve.
“Having someone direct us that is from a bigger band is always really helpful because a new set of ears adds greatness to our pieces that we play,” Bauer said. “Even though Mrs. Larson is the best.”
In agreement, Noah said, “I think clinic helps guide us in the areas we need to improve upon for contest so we can get the best rating. Working with new people also points out areas we may have overlooked.”
Peter Kramer took over as president of Security State Bank of Wanamingo on Jan. 15.
Kramer will oversee all areas of the bank, and will originate agricultural and commercial loans for the institution.
“My vision is to bring an intense focus on customer service and develop a strategic plan to lead the bank into the future,” he said.
The public is invited to meet Kramer at the bank at 232 Main St. Monday, Feb. 17-Friday, Feb. 21. Refreshments and coffee will be provided.
Kramer graduated from St. John’s University where he majored in accounting and minored in business management. He began his career in finance while working with CLA Public Accounting. The accounting firm is based in Minneapolis, and Kramer worked with financial institutions where he conducted business in the area of taxes. He also did consulting on financial plans and completing audits for their clients.
In 2003, Kramer decided to join his small, family-owned bank, Altura State Bank, as a fourth-generation banker.
“Altura State Bank was a very sound, high-performing financial institution,” Kramer said. “In 2016, the bank decided to merge with Peoples State Bank which was a larger family- owned bank.
“I’m a fourth-generation banker, so financing is in my blood,” he said.
He pursued the Wanamingo position for the opportunity to continue working in the smaller financial sector.
“A small bank separates itself from the competition with extraordinary customer service,” he said. “If you bank with Wanamingo, that is what you are going to find.”
Kramer added that he’s looking forward to the opportunity to work in Wanamingo as well as working with the staff at the bank and getting to know the bank’s customers.
He said, “I am very excited to serve the bank’s current customers and to also bring on new customer relationships in our area.”
Kramer looks forward to moving to Wanamingo in the future. He currently lives with his significant other, Mindy, and their two children. Mindy is attending college where she is pursuing a teaching degree. In his free time, Kramer enjoys the outdoors and being able to go to their cabin when they can get away.