Testimonials

Andrea Wilhelm, Class ’14

My name is Andie Wilhelm and I am a senior.  My performing arts experience started in 5th grade when I was cast as the Police Sergeant in the musical Pirates of Penzance.  From the moment I put on that fake mustache, I fell in love with the stage.  Since then I have participated in every show that I could, from plays to musicals to one acts.  In addition, I sing in choir and Prairie Voices, play electric bass in the jazz orchestra, and compete at the annual WSMA Solo & Ensemble competition.  Outside of the performing arts I have been involved in Model UN, French Club, student government, and Big Brother Big Sister.  Looking back on my high school experience, I can’t help but notice how much I’ve grown.  From a nervous freshman in a humorous one act to a confident Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, I owe it entirely to Prairie’s Performing Arts Department.

Ashley Gelhaus, CLASS ’14

My name is Ashley Gelhaus and I first entered Prairie, and it’s musical, athletic, academically challenging world as a freshmen in high school. With my love of music there was no shortage of opportunities for me to get involved. I played clarinet, sang in all of the high school choirs, and made sure to find time to perform in Prairie’s fantastic musicals. On top of that I was elected Key Club President and Honor Committee Chair, and progressed from junior varsity to varsity in Prairie tennis. I truly love the level of professionalism and passion each and every student and faculty member possesses. I think it is incredible to have a group of talented high schoolers come together to focus and collaborate to create an amazing, higher than high school level performance, on top of all the homework we have. I can trust that everyone will pull through on their responsibilities to create a Prairie masterpiece, whether in music, or even in the classroom. The open, trusting, caring, passionate, and hard working, challenging environment of the school makes me return to Prairie every day.

MELISSA ROONEY, Class ’13, PIANO AND PERCUSSION

My name is Melissa Rooney, and I am a ’13 graduate of Prairie. I played piano along with many obscure (!)  and unique percussion instruments. Prairie gave me the opportunity to excel in multiple areas, inside and outside of the Performing Arts. I was the captain of the girls soccer team, the Vice President of student government, and the Chair of the Honor Committee. My favorite musical memory at Prairie involved participating in a collaborative creation written by a fellow musician as part of his Independent Study in music. Student singers and instrumentalists came together on our time to perform this inspiring piece. The sounds we created as well as the experience we had were unforgettable.  There is something about creating music with a group of people that is so deeply captivating.

ANGELINE GRAGASIN ‘03 – FILMMAKER

The University of Chicago ‘07 AB in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities.

Since then I have trained professionally with Teatro Punto and Double Edge Theatre, taught at an international theatre conference in South Africa, and wrote and performed in plays in Chicago before retiring from theatre to move to Los Angeles and focus on filmmaking.

In 2009, I founded a production studio called NATIONAL HEADQUARTERS based in San Francisco.   I’m currently producing a documentary web series and developing my first feature length film.  My 10 years at Prairie – 8 of which I dedicated seriously to the performing arts – have proved an invaluable foundation for a lifelong career as an artist. I cannot thank Prairie enough for this gift.  ([email protected])

ELIZABETH STEFFENSEN ‘04 – CLASSICAL AND OPERATIC SOPRANO

Bachelor of Music (Voice)  – St. Olaf College, Master of Music (Vocal Performance)  – University of Minnesota Duluth, Sieur Du Luth Opera Training Program, Mill City Summer Opera Studio Artist Program, Doctorate of Musical Arts Candidate in Vocal Performance – University of Minnesota

My time at Prairie prepared me very well academically, but, more importantly, I learned skills and a work ethic that have become vital to my career. The French language skills that I learned from Mr. McKinney, Madame Waters, and Madame Price and traveling to France have been invaluable. Voice lessons with Adrianne Paffrath prepared me for advanced college vocal training, and the theatre training and musical productions with Barry Nyquist and Bob Sagadin groomed me for future production experiences. Pat Badger afforded me well-rounded musical experiences throughout my time at Prairie that have enabled me to become the artistic performer I am today.

Many vocalists that I have met, in college and beyond, do not have the strong foundation that I gained through my Prairie experiences; they have trouble with basic musical elements (rhythm), are unable to act while singing, and struggle with languages.

My Prairie mentors helped me become a “reasonably” well-rounded artist who knows how to properly prepare for rehearsals, interact in a professional environment, and incorporate vital musical and acting elements into performances/auditions. [email protected]

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