Pawlak finishes final crescendo

As the year comes to an end, the music department says goodbye to the senior band members and their pianist.

Susan Pawlak, the band’s pianist, played in her last concert on May 19, and said leaving will be “bittersweet.”

“The emotional thing is I’m excited about retiring, but it’s been a great ride here,” Pawlak said. “I’m certainly going to miss it and the people I work with and the kids.”

Pawlak was a freelance pianist for 17 years before working here for the next 24 and-a-half years accompanying students and performing at concerts. She says working with this year’s seniors has been great.

“Every group is so different. It’s great because we usually have students for all four years, so we really get to see them [grow] from the beginning,” Pawlak said. “Some are just naturally more relaxed when they’re up in front of the audience, but then with some of them you see how they really progress and get to that point where they can calm down the nerves and go out there and perform,” Pawlak said.

For her, the most difficult aspect of playing with the band was the part that the band members did all the time.

“When I go to play with the band, my part is [that] I play for a few measures, then you have to sit and count measures. They’re used to doing each different part. They play their certain measures, then they wait for the next time they have to come in, so they’re used to counting. That’s the hardest part because you really have to be focused,” Pawlak said.

Senior Annie Reilly says Pawlak has influenced the band in many ways.

“She’s always there for you. She’s an amazing pianist and can literally just pick up anything and just play it,” Reilly said. “She accompanies everyone if they just ask her, cause she never says no.”
Senior Rosemary Joyce says she will miss Pawlak, but is happy she’s graduating at the same time.

“It’s different because Mrs. Pawlak has been working here so long and she’s been my teacher for four years now.  It’s weird thinking she’ll be gone, but it’s also comforting knowing that she was here while I was,” Joyce said.

Pawlak’s exit will be accompanied by the seniors. Band teacher Sarah Whitlock says the seniors this year rose to expectations.

“This year’s seniors have been like a strong force,” Whitlock said. “You always have strong seniors individually, and they can all stand on their own just fine, but I think that collectively they really are a force to be reckoned with. They get things done, they have long term goals, and they make others rise to their level.”

Reilly will be studying music education at the University of Illinois. She reflects on how her year was and how band has helped her choose what she wants to do in life.

“I feel like my last year was great. The band was the best it’s ever been and I was drum major. I feel like that really opened my eyes to music education. It really taught me a lot of valuable lessons this year and I really learned a lot about life. I feel like band is the biggest reason why I am where I am right now,” Reilly said.

Joyce, who plans on majoring in vocal performance at the University of Minnesota, said band has been “different from any other class.”

“Band is definitely the hardest class I’ve ever taken at H-F, simply because it’s not just a class, but there’s outside commitment. You have to practice outside of class and you have to show up for outside practice. Band is definitely commitment more than anything else, but it’s also passion driven,” she said.

The band seniors and Pawlak will be missed. Reilly says band has ultimately impacted her forever.

“I know time management, commitment, I know more about how to get along with people I might not necessary like in order to achieve another goal,” Reilly said. “Band teaches you how to get someplace even if it seems out of reach, you just gotta follow your dreams and just make sure you make friends along the way.”

The last song Susan Pawlak played in her final symphonic band concert as H-F’s pianist. The final song was dedicated to Pawlak and after she receives a bouquet of flowers.
Camille Campbell
The last song   Susan Pawlak played in her final symphonic band concert as H-F’s pianist. The final song was dedicated to Pawlak and after she receives a bouquet of flowers.