New beginnings for new HHS music directors

HURON — The Huron High School music department has gained a new duet of directors, husband and wife, Molly and James Stueckrath.
The Stueckraths met while studying music education at USD in Vermillion. Molly majored in choral music education while James focused on the instrumental side.  
“We were engaged, I had just graduated in December 2016, and James was about to graduate in May, we were looking for jobs and the fact there were two available here at the same time prompted us to apply,” said Molly.
Huron has been the new home of the couple since June 2017, the duo have worked at getting to where they are now and the journey is only just beginning.
The couple were married in July 2017 at Molly’s parents’ home in Sioux Falls.
“My parents had just moved there from Colorado at the time. They were moving at the same time we were trying to move and plan a wedding,” Molly stated. “I was born in Sioux Falls and then we moved down to Colorado Springs when I was four-years-old. Right when I was supposed to go to high school they built a new one, because the existing one was so full, so the school I went to was about the same size that Huron High School is.”
Huron may be a new town for Molly and James, but the small community spirit is something with which they are both familiar, are enthusiastic about, and enjoy.
“Everything is in a close proximity in Huron; all of the people are really welcoming, and it is a very safe community,” Molly said. “If we had lived somewhere else I don’t think we would have gotten to know people so fast. We feel very lucky everything has worked out so well.”
James knows the meaning of a small community and how important involvement is to development, inside and outside of the schools.
“I grew up in Osmond, Neb., in a town of 800 people, on a farm. I was involved in lots of activities during high school, just like a lot of the kids are here. I was involved in music, athletics, school clubs, church groups and everything,” James explained.
“Kids are involved in everything that they can be in the small towns and communities, unlike the big towns and cities where you become involved in one thing and that’s about it.”
“Some of our seniors here are so busy and involved in everything, they love it and do it very well,” Molly added.
The determined team shared their goals and hopes for the present and future as they progress through their new experiences.
“Both of the programs are very solid, coming in we had big shoes to fill to replace the Petersens,” Molly stated.
Larry and Laura Petersen, another husband and wife team of directors, resigned at the conclusion of the previous school year.
“Right now we are working on music reading, which the kids learn really fast. I would also like to add a men’s choir in the future,” Molly added. “There’s already 200 kids in choir, and I only have three choirs, so they are all bursting at their seams, which is great.”
James announced, “I want to implement a few new ideas, and try to get a couple smaller groups going. I would also like to add different ensembles, try to improve the smaller ensembles and add a few new things the kids aren’t used to. I want to get them out of their comfort zone and keep them playing not only in class, but in smaller groups. It is important to take music outside the classroom and into the community also.”
Molly continued, “The kids are very willing to try new things. You can tell they are out of their comfort zones, but they do great with it, and it is fun to see.”
So what makes it all worth it for the Stueckraths? James spoke about the rewarding nature of seeing improvements in the students, he said, “Knowing that they are listening to you and taking what you tell them to heart to try to get better is very gratifying, and also having them come up and personally say thank you. I intend to always keep improving and never take steps back.”
Relationships make a community, and for Molly that has been an extremely valuable aspect of her new career, she explained.
“It has been rewarding to develop relationships with the students, I feel almost like an older sibling in the sense the students come to us for advice and they really listen to what we have to say. They were very accepting of us. It is also rewarding to see the improvements the students make everyday, especially getting ready for the concert coming up. It can be very easy to work so hard and become stressed out but then all of sudden it just clicked and I am so proud of my students.”  
The Winter Music Concert, “Holiday Extravaganza,” put on by the Huron High School music department, takes place at 7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 18, in the High School auditorium. The holiday concert will feature all of the Huron High School Formal music ensembles, including the prima chorale choir and girls’ chorus plus the concert choir which consists of 90 students, all of whom had to audition to participate.
The symphonic orchestra will perform, a string orchestra with wind and percussion, and the concert band of 72 students will also play.
Molly explained, “There is a dinner fundraiser before the concert called “Christmas in the Commons,” which is hosted by our wonderful Huron Music Parent organization.”
Huron Music Parents (HMP) is an organization created by parents of students to assist the music department by fundraising.
“We support the music department and directors for student activities and provide money to supplement the music department by fundraising,” said Diane Brandsrud, HMP President. “There are trips organized for the students in the music department, and some parent chaperones, every four years. This year the our trip was to New York City, which was amazing, the students got to choose between live shows “Aladdin” or “School of Rock” plus visits to Coney Island, the Empire State Building and all the sites.”
HMP meets the first Monday of every month from 5:30 p.m., although times are subject to change when school events take place. The “Tiger Music,” Facebook page posts regular updates and information for the public to view.
The concert is set to take place in the Huron High School auditorium, directly after the “Christmas in the commons,” annual dinner fundraiser.
“There will be a full roast beef dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy, then homemade cakes for desert,” said Bransrud. “A silent auction will also be going on with items donated from HMP. We have a beautiful tiger quilt donated by Betty Brock, which will be raffled off at the event.”
The dinner will take place from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m., in the HHS Commons, where a silent auction of Christmas treats and gift baskets will also take place.
HMP will also host a “Cocoa and Canvas,” fundraiser in January, and in March they will be selling “Puffins” which are puff pastries with a variety of fillings such as apple or cherry. Keep up to date with events and meeting hosted by the HMP at the “Tiger Music” Facebook page.
“We are a very busy group, and we really enjoy it. The kids are all awesome kids and very active, and I can’t say enough good things about our new directors Molly and James. The events will be a lot of fun,” stated Bransrud.
Tickets for the dinner and concert are sold separately, contact Diane Brandsrud at 461-1438 or Sarah Rubish at 352-8231 for more information.
Concert tickets will be available for purchase at the door prior to the concert. As a regular HHS Activities event, the regular fees and passes will apply.
Come hear the sounds of the season and meet the new band and choral directors.

Photos by Angelina Della Rocco of the Plainsman
James and Molly Stueckrath are the directors of the instrumental (James) and choral (Molly) music departments at Huron High School. The departments will host their annual Christmas Concert and fundraiser on Monday, Dec. 18, at the Huron High School auditorium.

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