All-State performers, from left (front): Naomi Davidson and Aidan Spencer; (back): Maggie Breitenstein, Will Yahr, Brianna Doyle and Connor Freeman. (Submitted photo)
All-State performers, from left (front): Naomi Davidson and Aidan Spencer; (back): Maggie Breitenstein, Will Yahr, Brianna Doyle and Connor Freeman. (Submitted photo)
This winter 55 Decorah High School students embarked on a journey of expression and discovery by participating in individual speech.

With guidance from their coaches, Liz Fox and Molly Holkesvik, they chose their songs, poems, speeches and prose pieces to interpret. They attended many practices where they supported and encouraged each other, but when they competed, they were on stage alone.

As senior Alison Schwartzhoff reflected, "There's no one to cue me like in regular theater. I need to remember all the words on my own."

Still, the team spirit is evident during practices and contest.

"Individual speech is a lot of fun," said Will Yahr. "It's really scary to get up there all by yourself, but it's worth it when you're finished."
Maggie Breitenstein added, "You become closer to people who are on the team.  Speaking in class gets easier, and it's really so much fun."
 
Watching the students improve from week to week was most gratifying for coach Liz Fox.

“To see the students make adjustments at every practice was a real joy.  I have profound respect for all the time and energy they poured into their performances.”

Coach Molly Holkesvik sums it up this way: “Individual speech is a family: the students learn and grow through practice and watching each other.  In the process, they develop a bond with each other and their coaches, as well as confidence and a better understanding of important life skills they may not find anywhere else:  integrity, honesty, fluidity. They learn to stand up and voice their opinion, to think on the go, to praise a job well done, and to move on if life doesn't go their way.  They become team players by motivating each other, teaching each other, and mimicking each other.  Everyone is on an equal playing field.  They learn what makes a good speech and what moves that speech to outstanding: passion, practice, and pizzazz.  More than anything, they learn how to find the truth in every piece and showcase it for the world.”

Six students were chosen to perform at the All-State Festival at UNI on March 31st: Maggie Breitenstein - Prose, Naomi Davidson - Acting, Brianna Doyle - Radio News Broadcasting, Connor Freeman - Public Address, Aidan Spencer - Solo Musical Theater, Will Yahr - Improvisation.