The Grand Rapids Griffins are Serenaded by the Bobcat Choir!

miii2587The Bobcat Choir from Bauerwood cannot simply be contained by the borders of Jenison! Last week they traveled to VanAndel Arena to serenade the Grand Rapids Griffins, their opponents, the Iowa Wild and the hometown crowd with the National Anthem. They were supported by 300 Bauerwood family members who came to cheer on the choir and the Griffs!

miii2555Bauerwood music director, Diane Schrems, says that fifteen years ago the Bobcat Choir started signing the National Anthem at the Whitecaps games and then reached out to the Griffins as well. “Most recently Grand Valley contacted me to see if I would bring the Bobcat Choir to a Grand Valley Women’s basketball game.  It’s wonderful to get out into the community and perform for everyone.”

miii2559Rehearsals for the big performance have been taking place weekly after school on Thursday’s and the choir has watched post-game tape and agree they did a great job. Of course, they also got to stay for the game and had a wonderful time cheering with their family and friends.

“The kids gain a sense of school pride when we go out into the community and represent Bauerwood and Jenison Public Schools.  It’s important to share your talents with others in a meaningful way like singing our country’s national anthem.  Being a member of  Bobcat Choir builds strong character and commitment in our kids.  When we sing together we build a bond through the music that sounds and feels great.”

Even though the Griffs couldn’t pull of a win that night (they lost 1-2), the Bobcat Choir certainly won for their talent, courage and showmanship! Jenison is proud of you! Go Wildcats!






#JPSReads Comes Alive on Stage!

miii2248As a partnership to #JPSReads, the Junior High theatre department presents, James and the Giant Peach starting today and running through Sunday afternoon. We hope that families all over the district participated in the Read Aloud, JPSReads, earlier this school year and read the classic Roald Dahl story but if it’s new to you, don’t worry, it’s a heartwarming tale of an underdog you’ll love.

James is orphaned early in life and goes to live with his aunt who treats him as a servant, rather than a young boy. He soon meets a mysterious old man who offers him a magic bag of crocodile tongues that will make his life better. When James accidentally spills the tongues all over the ground, he is surprised to see an enormous peach grow on the sidewalk! The giant peach becomes a magical place of fantasy and friendship for James and, of course, you’ll need to read the book or buy a ticket this weekend to hear the rest!

miii2237When Director, Holly Florian, was anticipating this years musical, she considered the amazing batch of talent her students bring to the table. While the audience is aware that the actors on stage are junior high students, what they may not realize is that by the end of the weekend, the entire show is student-run. They are in charge of the lights, sound, stage management, direction, and set changes. They are assisted by a couple of high school students in their tasks but they act mainly in the role of mentor to these ambitious junior highers!

The cast auditioned back in mid-October and at the end of that month they began their rehearsals. Near showtime, they are rehearsing from 5-9pm every weeknight! Prior to the holiday break they have memorized all of their lines but Ms Florian encourages them from this point on to really let the characters become their own; to have fun with the lines and the story. She sees their potential and wants them to have the opportunitiy to shine as a result of their hard work and dedication.

miii2102Just like our high school students say year after year, Ms Florian believes that her students love being in the theatre program because it provides a sense of belonging and community. Students are able to meet new people and make friends with other students they may have never met otherwise. Because of this, she is especially pleased with the journey that James makes in this story. As the director, she is able to see the journey of students, their progress and self-confidence throughout the rehearsal season. By the end “it’s amazing to see how far they’ve come and that’s what this story is all about: self-confidence.”

If you’d like to see these talented students live, in action, you can purchase your tickets here. It’s a great opportunity to bring the book to life and remind your kids of the importance of and meaning found in reading and stories!

Break a leg, Junior High students! We know you will be incredible, not only this weekend, but always!









Choir Concert Season Wows Audiences!

miii9963Earlier this month students involved in various choirs across the district performed at the JCA much to the delight of their families, friends and teachers.

On Monday, Dec. 5 the Jr. High Choirs were joined by the District Elementary Honors Choir which is made up of about 90 singers from all five elementary buildings. The Honors Choir has been rehearsing since the end of September with three additional rehearsals outside of class time. It is led by Jr High Choir Director, Mr Waters along with Elementary directors: Mrs. Ambs [Rosewood and Sandy Hill], Ms. Florian [Pinewood and Sandy Hill], Mrs. Schrems [Bauerwood] and Mrs. Willie [Bursley].
miii9895Mrs Schrems says, “The 7th and 8th Grade Girls Choirs were amazing with their performance as was the 7-8-9 Male Chorus directed by both Mr. Waters and Mr. Carmichael.”  The night was closed out by a magical, true “surround sound” performance by both the Elementary Honors Choir and the Jr High Choirs with the song, “Night of Silence/Silent Night”. The Jr High Girls sang from the balconies, the Male Chorus sang from the stage and the Elementary Choir sang from the aisles on the orchestra level.
miii9888The next night “our incredible lower el students had a lovely performance called M-E-R-R-Y C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S! They sang beautifully and their behavior on stage was excellent.  We had approximately 50 narrators speak into the microphone as well.   Great Job!”
But the choirs weren’t done yet! The Bauerwood Bobcat choir was about to take over the ECC and the Gerald R Ford airport! All 113 members of the non-auditioned choir first stopped off at the ECC to lead the Transitional Kindergartners in a sing-a-long and perform some of their best songs as well. Mr. Westervelt dressed up as Santa and Mr. Waters was on hand to lead two songs and the students had the opportunity to get their wiggles out by dancing to Pentatonix “Up on the Housetop”.
miii9989And if that wasn’t enough, they headed to the Holiday Festival in the lobby of the airport! “The choir kids were complimented many times for their great singing but also for their polite manners.  We ended with some refreshments provided by the wonderful staff at the airport.”
The week was rounded out by a fantastic High School Choir and Orchestra concert on Friday night. “This concert was the perfect ending to a glorious week of choral music.”

Congratulations to all of our choir, band and orchestra students and directors! Your dedication and hard work is appreciated by the entire Jenison community and we love being able to see the ways you grow in your talents!





JHS Theatre Says, “Let Your Freak Flag Fly!” in Shrek the Musical

MIII2429Last week the Jenison Thespians amazed audiences with their talent and passion in their performance of Shrek the Musical!

MIII1804The story in the musical version is very similar to the movie from 2001 we all know and love with a few minor changes and song additions. Shrek is an ogre who finds solace in a lonely swamp until it is invaded by ousted fairy tale characters from Lord Farquaad’s kingdom when he deems them “freaks.” But Shrek doesn’t want them either. Preferring his solitude to a overly crowded neighborhood, Shrek visits Farquaad to convince him to take the characters back. Farquaad decides to let Shrek rescue Princess Fiona who has long been trapped by a ferocious dragon in return for his swamp. Along the way, Shrek is saddled with Donkey, a chatty but charming compatriot in his adventure. Fiona is less than impressed with her rescuer and even less so with Farquaad and through a continued series of songs, fun and love, Shrek and Fiona end up together and the fairy tale characters get their new home after all. You could say “they live happily ever after…”

MIII1744Director Todd Avery hopes to spread the message about individuality being accepted and celebrated which is a main theme of the production. “As the song, “Let Your Freak Flag Fly!” indicates, EVERYONE has something “freakish” about them and those traits should be celebrated and not suppressed.  People [or in this case, fairy tale creatures] are different.  However, those differences are a GOOD thing and shouldn’t be judged by others.”

There are many  behind the scenes teams including set design and construction, sound and tech, pit orchestra, costume design, hair and makeup and stage management.  Kelsey Shannon is a senior who is the crew leader for the hair and make up team and enjoys being part of productions and the ability to be yourself. “Nobody’s judged, everyone’s accepting because you share the same passion.”

MIII2136Freshman, Ashley Hillson, playing the role of Princess Fiona loves being part of Jenison Theatre and makes her return to the stage after playing Arial in the Little Mermaid in last year’s Junior High musical. “The friendships you make here are so cool. Rehearsal doesn’t even feel like rehearsal anymore, it’s just everyone hanging out.”

Playing Shrek is senior Jacob Helm who says, “I feel like letting your freak flag fly is really important because it’s letting you show who you truly are, especially in theatre, which is why I think it’s so cool that we’re doing this show.  This is a place where we’re allowed to be who we really are without being judged.”

Ashley adds, “Anytime you are yourself people end up accepting you more and you end up finding  the people who are like you and when you’re yourself you’re a lot happier. No matter what you’re part of, just be willing to stay true to yourself and not feel like you need to be fake or hide.”

Congratulations to the entire cast and crew of Shrek! We are proud of your talents and we love letting our freak flag fly!MIII1765










High School Chamber Orchestra Performs with GVSU!

thumb_MIII1290_1024 copyThe fall performance season was enriched by another year of the Jenison High School Chamber Orchestra partnership with the Grand Valley State University Symphony Orchestra.
In 2008 Jenison was the first high school orchestra asked to do a side by side concert with Grand Valley and they met up again on the stage of the JCA at the end of October this year.  The entire 70 member GVSU Symphony Orchestra was represented, including all woodwinds, brass, and percussion. The Jenison Chamber Orchestra is an elite musical ensemble made up of the top violin, viola, cello and bass players at Jenison High School.  Students are in 10th – 12th grade and perform a rigorous audition in the spring to be accepted into the ensemble.  Though the size of the group varies it’s roughly 25 students each year.
thumb_MIII1280_1024 copyDirector Dan Scott says, “Jenison students rehearsed in class [while also preparing our fall concert and our performance for the Betty Ford Breast Cancer Awareness Event], but they also had one 90 minute rehearsal with the GVSU Symphony on the day of the concert.”
The concert opened with the brass players from GVSU performing Fanfare from ‘La Peri by Paul Dukas from the balcony.  Included in the GVSU part of the program will also be Mars  from ‘The Planets by Gustav Holst followed by the Jenison Chamber Orchestra performing by themselves.  The GVSU Symphony performed three works by themselves before everyone joined together to perform Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky.
Henry Duitman, GVSU Director of Orchestras explains how the side by side aspect works:  “For the Mussorgsky piece, the GVSU Strings will sit “side by side” with the Jenison High School Chamber Orchestra strings.  This gives younger students a chance to learn from older students and gives the entire string section the full sound that this mighty work requires.  It is a lot of fun for the students as well.  thumb_MIII1269_1024 copyOur students love to perform with the high school students and were especially looking forward to performing in the wonderful new Jenison Center for the Arts.”
Professor Duitman knows that music education is about more than performances and reading music. “This is just one more way of exposing students, parents, and the community to the exciting world of classical music, an important part of any liberal arts education.”
Mr Scott adds that the experience of playing alongside college students has a deep value as well. “This was a wonderful opportunity to learn about continuing to play their instruments in college.  Our students worked with students who are still playing in college while experiencing the musical level and expectations of a college ensemble.   As usual, our students were excellent musicians and people throughout the experience.”
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Thank you to both Mr Scott + Professor Duitman for bringing together these two very talented groups of musicians!  Students, we’re so proud of your talent and hard work!  Keep it up!

Dan Scott Named Director of the Year

Dan Scott, Director of Orchestras at Jenison High School has been given the prestigious honor of being named the Director of the Year by the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association.  Dan Scott

Last Spring we told you about the nomination process for Mr. Scott which was the first step on this exciting journey.  He was nominated [alongside Mr. Zamborsky] by his peers in District 10 which is comprised of Allegan, Ottawa and Kent counties and this past June the nominations were narrowed down to only 3 teachers by the Executive Board of the MSBOA.  Then, in December, those 3 band and 3 orchestra teachers are voted on by the statewide membership of the MSBOA.  The winners are announced in January at DeVos Hall during the performance of the All-State Band and Orchestra performances.

There will be an official presentation in May at the Michigan Youth Arts Festival where Mr. Scott will guest conduct the Michigan Youth Arts Festival honors orchestra.
“It is an absolute honor to be on this list.  The previous recipients of this award are some of the most respected teachers in my profession and I have looked up to many of them for years.  To have my name on the same list as these people is a true honor.  Its also special that this award is voted on by band and orchestra teachers throughout the state.”  — Mr. Scott
For the past 17 years Mr. Scott has had many opportunities to see his students grow and give back and he is thankful for the many great opportunities Jenison has provided him as a teacher. He is especially thankful for the chance to travel with the orchestras to Disney World.  Last year they were able to add a performance at Give Kids the World which is a Disney resort dedicated to children with terminal diseases or serious health concerns.  The orchestra performed for these families as they waited to see Santa and as children passed by, many in wheelchairs, “tears streamed down several of our students’ faces as they performed for these families.  I will never forget that night.”
Mr. Scott is also thankful for the connection to former students that Facebook has allowed him:
“The most gratifying thing about my career is when students who have been away from the program for years, after college or in college, and they send me a message saying how they “got their violin out and played some music from the past”.  To see how playing their instrument becomes a part of their life after JHS is easily the biggest reward my students can give me.”

Knowing that no teacher works alone, Mr. Scott is especially grateful to his fellow staff at Jenison:  “The music department is a rare group of professionals who are all tops in their profession.  They are all wonderful teachers who consistently amaze me how they show their love for students, music and education.  In 2002, Carol Johnson joined the orchestra program, taking over the JH program and her partnership is one of the biggest reasons Jenison has the orchestra program it has today.”

We join the MSBOA in saluting you, Mr Scott!  We’re so proud to have you on our team!

7 – 9 Male Chorus Wows Music Educators

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Each January, music educators from the entire state of Michigan gather in downtown Grand Rapids for the Annual Michigan Music Conference.  They attend sessions presented by leaders in the field and also listen to selected school musical groups.  The conference is recognized for setting a standard of excellence philosophically and musically throughout the state.

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Various school groups are selected to perform based on audition recordings that are submitted by their directors the previous spring.  In the past thirty years many Jenison Choirs have been chosen to perform at all levels:  elementary, junior high and high school which is something we, as a district and community take great pride in.  However, this year, as a result of a blind audition the 7 – 9 Male Chorus was invited to perform during the MSVMA Choral Hour at the JW Marriott Hotel.  Only six choirs from the state were given this honor and ours was the only choir to include students at the junior high level.

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While the quickly swelling crowd waited for the previous session to wrap up the Jenison Male Chorus worked on their focus with mental warm ups.  The other selected choirs from Traverse City and DeWitt also waited but it was impossible to ignore the 94 young men dressed in their tux jackets and ties.

When they took the stage, they were greeted by applause and performed four songs:  two in Latin with complex harmonies and two that were upbeat and included some different stylings.  The final song, “Coney Island Baby” even included choreography and was a genuine crowd pleaser, earning the group a standing ovation.

Director Steven Waters, a veteran teacher of 29 years who has been with Jenison for 18 years, had this to say in appreciation of the young men he works with:

“I think the thing that is most unique about our group compared to others is that it is an all male JH age (grades 7-9) group. The second thing that sets them apart is that they aren’t an auditioned group. The other choirs that were selected are all “select” , elite choirs from their respective schools. We refer to our choirs at the JH as “y’all come sing” groups. Our Male Chorus is also unique in that it’s a JH aged choir that routinely sings 4-part acappella literature which is very challenging.” 

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If you’d like to catch an upcoming performance of another Jenison Choir please join our JH girl choirs performing in the Jenison Center for the Arts with the Lakewood Area Choral Society (LACS) on Tuesday April 1.

“This is a unique opportunity for our students to perform jointly with an adult group. We’re hoping this encourages them to view singing as a lifelong activity that is healthy and rewarding. The LACS is a phenomenal auditioned community ensemble of 110 voices  and is directed by former Jenison Choir Director Bob Oster.”  – Steven Waters

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Congratulations Male Chorus!  We’re proud of you!

Bauerwood Music Teacher Named Michigan Music Educator of the Year

What Diane Shrems expected to be an average Friday night football game in Jenison this fall turned out to be anything but average.  She was with her best friend and co-director, Karen Ambs, listening to students sing the fight song for a piece of candy when Karen handed her a stack of letters saying, “I want you to read what everyone thinks of you.”

Diane Schrems

They were her colleagues’ letters directed to the Michigan Music Educators Association [MMEA] nominating Diane for the prestigious award of Michigan Music Educator of the Year.  Diane was overwhelmed to tears with the outpouring of support and kind words.

Fast forward to this winter, when Diane received a call during an especially stressful rehearsal.  She told the unknown caller that she was dealing with a crisis and that he would have to call back later.  She hung up without another thought to who he was or why he called.

Much later that day, Diane was catching up on her work, only to discover a short email from the President of the MMEA apologizing for disrupting her rehearsal but wanting to let her know that she had been named the MMEA’s Educator of the Year. He added that he should know better than to contact a music teacher during holiday rehearsal season!

Diane loves working in Jenison and has done so for 23 years, calling it the “best job on the planet” and her students “amazing and respectful.”  She is humbled by the award saying that, “after reading the letters I realized that it is truly a team award.  My team makes me strong; without them I couldn’t be who I am—the team allows us to be the best.”

Co-director of the JPS Elementary Honors Choir and the Bobcat Choir [made up of 100 5th & 6th graders].  Diane’s list of accomplishments is long:

  • She also co-directs the vocals for the JHS annual musical and is excited to be part of the Wizard of Oz this spring.
  • Presented at the Michigan Music Conference, university general music workshops and the MMEA Fall workshop
  • Awarded for excellence by the Jenison School Board
  • Served on the Board of Directors of the MMEA
  • Regularly a mentor to student teachers 

But those awards and recognitions come in second place when compared to “seeing the excitement in kids when they connect to each other with music.” Seeing that interaction is her favorite part of the job, and she is most looking forward to continuing to perform at the new Jenison Center for the Arts. The thought of giving her students the chance to perform on a stage that “is worthy of their talents” and seeing them connect with an audience is a thrill she has long awaited.  Diane said she is especially thankful to have an administration that supports the arts and with that, she says, “the sky’s the limit.”

The Music Educator of the Year Award will be presented on Saturday, January 18th at the annual MMEA breakfast and meeting at the Michigan Music conference held here in Grand Rapids.  Congratulations, Mrs Schrems!  We’re proud to call you one of our own!

Jenison’s Center for the Arts Opens in Grand Style

After two years and over 50,000 man hours of dreaming, designing and digging, the Jenison Public Schools Center for the Arts opened this week to hundreds of expectant community members. Supported with over 390 tons of steel and boasting 1,251 seats, we are so privileged to provide a beautiful, well-appointed home for the arts for generations to come, and above all, wish to thank this community for making this vision a reality.

Fine Arts Center, Jenison Public Schools

The stage, whose floor is certified by the American Dance Association, spans 90 feet in diameter and touts a one-of-a-kind retractable dividing wall, enabling casts and crews to better customize their performance space. With over 3 miles of cables hidden beneath the stage and 60 locations for microphones, students will be heard–and seen– from any point in the hall. In fact, despite the soaring ceiling and custom wood chandelier, the furthest point from the stage in any direction is just 85 feet! Performances are also able to be broadcast live, with 8 different recording tracks available so that individual singers can be isolated out from the group.

Finally, for comfort within the hall, air is circulated in the most “green” way possible. Beneath the seats are vents covering two chambers that perfectly mix both cool and warm air. Once blended at a precise temperature, heat seeps up from the floor rather than blowing audience members in the face. This technique not only ensures proper temperatures throughout, but reduces the electrical use that fan systems require.

Jenison Public Schools,


Jenison Public Schools

Other impressive details show that every suggestion was heard and each thought considered in the planning of this facility:

  • The make-up room stretches wide and has sinks in each corner for easy preparation and clean up.
  • Costume rooms have sewing machines and a front-loading washer/dryer for a complete costume production experience.
  • Sets are designed in-house in a specially-designed shop with saws, plenty of electrical outlets, and towering ceilings.
  • Double doors protect each entrance to the hall, providing a sound-proof experience.
  • Walls are designed for acoustics, maximizing sound travel.

This holiday season, visitors will also enjoy the painted instrument sale whose proceeds benefit the Jenison Public Schools Art Department. Please consider taking home a masterpiece this December! Until then, take a tour with us and leave a comment with your first impressions!

What most amazed you about our new Center for the Arts?


JPS Administration Offices






Elementary Orchestra Sign-ups Strike a Chord

For 5th graders dreaming of playing the cello like Yo-Yo Ma or the violin like a Juilliard graduate, the annual fall orchestra sign-ups are the first step down a path that is limited only by their will to succeed.


While Jenison 6th graders are eligible for band and have their own fitting and instrument pairing evening, the opportunity to play in the Wildcat orchestra begins in 5th grade with an instrument rental and fitting in the junior high.

aaron's instruments, JPS, orchestraBut orchestra teacher Carol Johnson explains that the journey to a music career actually begins at the end of 4th grade when she travels to each school with a selection of stringed instruments for the kids to hear and touch. Because this occurs right before summer vacation, students are given time to consider which instrument — if any — they’d like to play.

By the time September rolls around, those same students have begun 5th grade and have reached a decision with the help of their parents. They enter the cafeteria on a mission to find the best fit — and perhaps the best price — for their rental.

This year, three area rental companies were on-site for families to get acquainted with: Aaron’s Instruments, Baroque Violin Shop and Marshall Music Co. Having rental companies come to the school is just one way that the Jenison Music Program strives to support busy families and make it easier to consider trying something new.

Aaron Reiley, of Aaron’s Instruments, says that they started participating in this event five years ago.

“We originally came to JPS because they have a great orchestra program. I’ve known Dan (Scott) for a long time and it was a big factor in our decision to get on board. In fact, our family decided to move to Jenison for that reason! Once we saw the music program we wanted to work with JPS.”

Jenison Orchestra, Jenison Public Schools

Families and students present for the event were helped by volunteers directing traffic and answering questions. They were also excited for the chance to take home their very own instrument. Ella Uganski, a 5th grader picking up her own violin had this to say:

“I chose the violin because it sounds the best and it looks the most fun to do. I thought about the viola for a couple of minutes, but then I changed my mind. I’m really excited,” Ella said, beaming ear to ear.

Jenison Public Schools, Orchestra

Students like Ella will benefit from the early and consistent teaching that Jenison offers. She and her orchestra classmates will receive one afternoon of instruction in her own elementary building (45 minute class) and will also make a personal commitment to travel to the junior high two additional times per week before school. This kind of approach means that kids will play their first song on the first day of class — and be ready to perform a holiday concert by December!

Mrs. Johnson is looking forward to a new group of musicians, as well as the prospect of concerts in Jenison’s new Fine Arts Center.

How about you? Is your student in the orchestra? What do they love most about it? Leave a comment and tell us your story!