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Behind the Scenes at Graduation

Cassie Volkin, Writer, Digital Artist

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For many seniors, the time leading up to May 21 is full of stressful preparation for the moment they officially relinquish their free public education. The bathrobes, the frisbee hats, the tassels: everything must be paid for and readied to perfection. “Oh, those poor dears,” you might say, “having to dedicate so much time to walking back and forth in their monochrome ceremonial outfits!” Well, they aren’t the only ones with work to do to make that special day the best it can be.

No one in the band really looks forward to graduation. “We play for a short amount of time that feels like an eternity,” said alto saxophone player Ashton Jah. “That lovely music that you hear takes a lot of work.” Though the band only prepares around three songs, they have to play them on a loop for fifteen minutes straight, and for some, the music offers no place to breath. The mid-Pomp and Circumstance blackout sets in, and still they must keep going, because they’re still only at the ‘G’ last names. In his pain and boredom, one band member invented lyrics to the classic song, which soon caught on with the rest of the band:

“My turtle swims side-ways,

Your turtle swims upside down.

My turtle swims side-ways,

Your turtle is dead.

My turtle swims side-ways,

Your turtle is deeeeaaaaaad.”

On the topic of music, the choir also has some work to do. “It was kind of cool to sing in front of over a thousand people. But then it took forever,” said Casey Kula, a past vocalist. The choir usually only prepares one song, since they only get around five minutes to perform. Though it is likely the most public performance of the year for the music departments, it also tends to be the most lackluster. The valedictorian and salutatorian, who both give speeches to the student body, probably have even more stressful and stirring vocal performances, though school authorities like Mrs. Lambert and Mr. Parker are known for having longer ones.

“The real crunch time comes right before the ceremony, really, the weekend before,” says Mrs. Brandy Van Dam, an education and training teacher who works year round on preparing for graduation day. “The seating chart is probably the most stressful part…because if I don’t get that seating chart right, people get called by the wrong name, and no one’s happy with that.” Collectively, Mrs. Van Dam has to arrange printing the name tags and diploma covers, assigning the seating (including musicians, teachers, special guests, and students), contacting the Von Braun Center, and inviting senators, board members, and other significant visitors. That includes making sure those with medical issues or disabilities sit on the ends, the top 20 GPAs go in the front row, and putting the teachers with graduating children in front seats so they can see their sons and daughters graduate. “The seniors take their exams and leave, and it’s happiness, and everybody’s great. They really don’t know what goes on behind the scenes.”

At the end of the day, graduation is about sitting, standing, and paying our dues to the senior overlords by doing our darndest to give them the best graduation possible. This article isn’t to bemoan the horrors of graduation in order to draw pity for the entertainers involved, but merely to draw attention to all of the work from different groups to make graduation day happen. So, if you happen to see a choir member in the hall after graduation, give them a pat on the back. If you catch a band member after the performance, congratulate them (or give them an ice pack). Go thank Mrs. Van Dam, for crying out loud. And if you see a senior after they’ve poetically spread their wings and lifted off into the world (or whatever the cheesiest speech says this year), just wish them luck.

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Behind the Scenes at Graduation