Entertainment

Grand Island musical director retires after 34 musicals

Posted March 19

— From "Once Upon A Mattress" to "Sister Act," Carol Quandt has been the acting director for 34 musicals at Northwest High School.

But after the curtain falls Quandt will hand her directing duties over to a new person, whoever that may be.

David Sackschewsky, the vocal music teacher at Northwest who handles the musical numbers and dancing for the school's musicals, said he has told Quandt that he would like to work with her for another 10 years. Quandt recalls Sackschewsky putting his request with slightly different words: "Can't you go until you're 80?"

Quandt said her response is always, "No, Shack, I don't think I can."

For his part, Sackschewsky said it has been great working with Quandt over the years. "I have learned many things from Mrs. Quandt over the years, from how to build sets, how to make the scenes funny, how to make scenes more dramatic and how to make them "tight," said Sackschewsky. A "tight" scene is one without of the slightest bit of lag in dialogue, music or action that might permit the minds of audience members to wander.

"The time has come," said Quandt, about her decision to quit. "I'm just ready to do something else. I always wanted to do some writing and it always gets put on the back burner. I do have thoughts of writing my own musical. I have several ideas that I would love to at least get something done.

"I'm the last of my generation in our family. I would like to write a history of our family farm, homesteaded by Civil War soldiers. If I don't write this story down, it's not going to get written down. So I have some writing of my own to do," said Quandt, who taught English during her years at Northwest High School.

Quandt's first year at Northwest was during the 1983-84 school year. She taught full time until 1999, before teaching part time for another few school years, The Grand Island Independent (http://bit.ly/2nwOixW ) reported. During the years that she taught English full time, Quandt also was the coach for the speech team and the director for the student One-Act plays at Northwest. She also was the acting director for the spring musical, working first with Northwest's female vocal music teacher, Lou Gilmore, then with Northwest vocal music teacher Ron Troester and then with Sackschewsky.

"I was just a young teacher right of college who had never done a musical before," Sackschewsky said. "She took a great chance on me. I learned so much from her and we've become good friend. We've combined to give really great musical theater experiences for students.

"We've been very fortunate to have Carol Quandt as part of our team," he said.

Quandt not only can remember that her first musical working with Gilmore was "Once Upon a Mattress," she can also recalls that Erich Fruehling, now Dr. Erich Fruehling, was the mute King, who noted that he "I can talk now, and I have a lot to say" once his speech was restored; that Sue Haden was the princess; that David Keil was the prince; and that Christine (Hodtwalker) Mendyk, who teaches English at Grand Island Senior High, was the Queen.

As the acting director, Quandt works on the staging, which is some of the technical aspects of a musical. She perfects the details such as where all the performers exit from the stage, where they enter, the spots on the stage they are supposed to hit when they enter and even how to turn when they are stage.

She noted that "my job is to create those characters." Quandt said that includes the interpretation of who each of the characters really are. "We're handed a piece of paper. It's all words on a piece of paper. You have to read those words on the paper and envision it in your mind, how this scene all takes place. It's imagining how that scene might be."

Sackschewsky oversees the singing and dancing, and receives some aid for part of rehearsals from various choreographers. Quandt noted those disparate parts then "magically" all start to be put together. "I think that's called synthesis on the hierarchy of learning."

In addition to teaching at Northwest, Quandt taught at Albion, Elba and a brief time at what was then Barr Junior High. Quandt said one thing that helped her with directing school musicals was her experience with the Grand Island City Singers. During her time at Albion, she directed high school plays, the school's One Act plays and also did took on the same role of acting director for school musicals, working with Albion's vocal music teacher. That means that Quandt has worked on more than 34 musicals during her career.

"I've continued this long because I so much believe in the value of what we're doing out there for kids," said Quandt, who noted musicals teach young people how to work in group. "The No. 1 thing they have to learn if they're going to be in a musical at Northwest is self-discipline. Then, to watch their self-confidence develop and a sense of worth. It's a beautiful thing to watch that. You can see it with your own eyes. You can see what you're doing for kids."

She also has developed great relationships with many parents over the years, and she likes to talk about what students are doing post high school.

"We work with a lot of very highly creative kids," Quandt said. "Creativity is endless, it is just endless in those kids — and you never know where it's going to take them. Sometimes it's a total surprise."

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