Diocesan News

Fifth-grade ‘Spirit Singers’ complete annual tour

HASTINGS (HCS/SNR) – The Spirit Singers of St. Michael School in Hastings set off on the second leg of their “2018-19 Spirit Singer Tour” May 17.

The Spirit Singers, directed by music teacher Mrs. Dana Fanning and assisted by fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Michelle Hegemann, are comprised of 31 fifth-graders this year.

To begin the day May 17, the students performed for the St. Cecilia Bluehawk Band, then went to St. Cecilia Church to sing for the student Mass. Fanning said the group was especially excited to sing at Mass because many of the high school students present were once Spirit Singers themselves.

After Mass, the singing students traveled to The Kensington.

Mrs. Fanning said performing at assisted living centers allows the students the chance to serve the community by visiting the elderly and sharing God’s love.

“We love them,” said Rhonda Kolbet, activities director at the Kensginton. “They are just wonderful. It’s become a tradition.”

Kolbet said one of the benefits of the program is that the students are offered the opportunity to interact with people they may not know. Following the five-song set, Fanning gives the students a chance to converse with the residents with a set of questions including the resident’s name, career prior to retirement and family.

“This is where God’s mercy flows!” she said. “The residents love talking to the children and the children learn the skill of communicating with other people they may not know. Watching the smiles on both the children and the elderly is such a gift from God to me!”

The next stop on the tour was The Heritage at College View.

Becky Bruns, life enhancement director at College View, said the residents love watching the children perform and appreciate the hard work they put into their performances. Spirit Singers not only entertain by singing but also by performing choreographed moves and playing their own instruments. This spring, they used 5-gallon buckets with the music.

After the performance at College View, the students were treated to lunch at Valentino’s, which Fanning said is a coveted perk of earning the Spirit Singer role.

The Spirit Singer group was originated 16 years ago by fifth-grade teacher Barb Golden. She wanted to reach out to the community to showcase talented students from St. Michael Elementary. Fanning said the group has evolved into a “rite of passage” for St. Michael’s fifth-graders. To become a Spirit Singer students must agree to weekly rehearsals, exhibit respectful and cooperative behavior, have only three excused absences, turn in all work to classroom teachers on time and most importantly, enjoy singing.

Spirit Singers take two tours each year: one at Christmas and one in May. They perform mainly at assisted living centers in Hastings, but are occasionally invited to extra performances elsewhere.

“There are so many stories and graces that happen to us on our tours,” Fanning said. “Special things happen when we perform for people who are suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. Music lives in the soul of humans and that becomes very apparent with people who are suffering with these terrible conditions. We have seen patients who haven’t spoken in weeks start to sing songs with us. One lady hadn’t wanted to get out of her chair for days and when the children sang she stood up and began to dance!”

This year’s fifth-grade class graduated 31 Spirit Singers, and a new crew will enter the ranks this fall. For more information on the Spirit Singers group, contact Mrs. Dana Fanning at dana-fanning@cdolinc. net.

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