Hays hosts Western Kansas Orchestra Festival


Allison Hillebrand

High school orchestra A during their first day of practice.

Hays High hosted about 550 students for the annual Western Kansas Music Festival (WKOF) on Nov. 16-17.

The festival concluded with a concert performed on Nov. 17 at 6:00 p.m., with eight towns and 15 different schools participating. For the performance, seventh through twelfth grade students split into four different orchestras; middle school orchestras A and B, and high school orchestras A and B.

Students were able to audition for first chair positions in their orchestras. Of the 10 positions, five students who won were from HHS. These students were senior Alex Hagerman, senior Carl Rorstrom, sophomore Alisara Arial, freshman Sydney Wittkorn, and freshman Kiersten Goertzen.

The visiting conductors conducting the middle school orchestras were Shelly New and Kevin Monroe. Conductors of the high school orchestras were Rachel Dirks and Lynnita Harris.

Being the host school this year meant local students, parents and orchestra boosters were busy. From donating food for the hospitality room and running concession stands, to set up and tear down for each days events, everyone stepped up to help.

“I helped hand out programs, set up chairs, and helped people to their seats,” freshman Ross Eckroat said.

Several students from Hays High had mixed feelings about WKOF being in Hays this year.

“I was able to have good Wi-Fi,” junior Shaun Koerner said, “but on the other hand I enjoy making the trip, it helps us bond.”

Even though most musicians agreed a weekend trip away for WKOF is part of the fun, many pointed out the positive side to having it here this year.


Courtesy Photo
DECA collects change during Miracle Minute.

“I got to sleep in my own bed instead of a hotel and I don’t have to take a giant bus down to the festival,” sophomore Marrissa Raynesford said.

During the concert, DECA students passed collection buckets around to raise funds during a “Miracle Minute” – a minute long change collection to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Overall, students enjoyed visiting conductors and being part of the musical performance.

“My favorite part of WKOF this year was the final concert we had and listening to all the great music everyone made,” Eckroat said.