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“I know Nate has a great big smile up in heaven.”
After a whopping 19 students qualified for Class D All-State Band on Feb. 5, Neligh-Oakdale music teacher Jamie Sehi said she knows the late Nate Metschke is beaming with pride.
“It’s just really impressive,” Sehi said. “All the kids’ hard work is paying off, and I know he’s got a huge smile up there.”
Newly-hired Warrior band director Molly Burbach agreed.
“I think it’s really amazing that 19 kids made it. Nate would be really proud,” Burbach said. “They’re going to represent us well at Kearney for Class D.”
Ten students were selected for the Wind Ensemble and nine were chosen for the Symphonic Band. Wind Ensemble selections were: Emma Bixler, clarinet; Meredith Wiseman, tenor saxophone; Austin Rice, Matthew Feusse and Trey Svatos, trumpet; Nathan Feusse, French horn; Sydney Olson, euphonium; Haley Kerkman, tuba and Hailey Bixler and Krystal Fulsaas, battery percussion. Symphonic Band members are Jorden Fulsaas and Griffin Claussen, flutes; Christians Carothers, clarinet; Parker Tinsley, alto saxophone; Kimberly Dreger, tenor saxophone; Adan Schindler, trumpet; Thomas Johnson, trombone; Jesse Green, French horn and Cole Belitz, battery percussion.
The Class D All-State Band members will perform on Saturday, March 23 at 5 p.m. at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Sehi said Metschke recorded the auditions before the kids left for Christmas break, even though they weren’t due until Jan. 18.
“He wanted to make sure it was all taken care of and be less work for his subs,” she said. “He wasn’t planning to be back until Jan. 21, which would’ve been after the deadline.”
However, Metschke died the evening of Dec. 24 after complications during surgery to remove a cancerous mass from his liver.
Since the recordings were already complete, Sehi said she “just had to upload them after he passed.” She found out the results via email the night of Feb. 5.
“Having all those kids make it is really, really awesome,” Sehi said. “There are 10 in the top band (wind ensemble) and there are nine in the symphonic band, which is the second band. A few years ago, they had 10 make it, just in general. Now you have 10 in the highest band, that’s an honor.”
Neligh-Oakdale has competed in Class C in past years, but moved into Class D this year. Under Metschke’s direction, 15 students was a record-setting number of selections in Class C.
“Nineteen is a lot,” she said.
Seniors Haley Kerkman, Cole Belitz, Austin Rice and Christian Carothers, who were all selected for the second-straight year, said Metschke was very encouraging and was always excited about his students’ successes.
Belitz said he “didn’t want to go to Class C at all last year.”
“Metschke convinced a lot of us to try out because he said he knew we’d make it,” he said. “He told us how fun it would be and the stuff we would do, so last year a bunch of us tried it. It was really fun, so we thought, senior year, we’ll do it again.”
The others agreed that they only auditioned because of Metschke’s encouragement.
“One thing I constantly told Metschke was, ‘I don’t do band because I like playing an instrument three-fourths of my size. I do band because I like the guy that teaches it,’” Kerkman said of her tuba playing. “I always told him that. I was never like, ‘Oh, I’m so excited to go to an honor band!’ It was always, ‘Metschke’s crazy and I know he’s going to crack some awful jokes and it should be a good time.’”
Carothers said he can imagine Metschke’s reaction after learning 19 kids made Class D.
“He’d be over the moon,” he said. “He’d just talk about it, he’d bring it up every day, getting pumped up for it.”
Kerkman said Metschke always celebrated the little victories “and the big victories are so much more because of that.”
“He’d be really happy and I know he still is,” she said. “I think he’d be really proud of how Miss Burbach’s doing too.”
However, Belitz said he doesn’t think Metschke would be surprised at how many students were selected.
“He had confidence in all of us to make it,” he said. “I don’t think he would’ve been surprised at all, but he definitely would’ve been excited.”
Rice said he thinks Metschke “would’ve been really happy that many people made it.”
“I know he likes taking a bus to those places, so I think he would’ve been happy that he gets to take a whole busload again,” he said.
Sehi said she plans to take the kids to Kearney on a bus and “do some fun stuff” as well.
“I told them, ‘I’m not Mr. Metschke, but I’ll do my best,’” she said. “Right now, the main focus is just making sure the kids get to do everything they were hoping to do.”
Keeping Metschke’s tradition, the high school band will travel to Worlds of Fun on May 23 “because they’ve been promised to do that every four years,” Sehi said.
“That’s how you make memories,” she said.