Williston Public School District #1's Music Department is led by outstanding individuals at every level.
Eric Rooke, Williston High School Band Director
First year in District #1: 2005
Mr. Rooke was an active participant in the performing arts through middle school and high school, a member of Band, Choir, Vocal Jazz, and Jazz Band. He continued all of these into college, where he also joined several small chamber ensembles and Theater Production.
"I believe music is a lifelong skill everyone should have. I try to teach that skill by encouraging my students to work hard and dedicate themselves to their music. I also encourage my students to participate in music after they leave high school.
"Williston Band Boosters have done a wonderful job of supporting the high school music program. Since the band program had outgrown our uniforms, the Band Boosters worked to raise over $50,000 to purchase new uniforms for the band in a single school year."
Katie Rooke, Williston High School Choir Director
First year in District #1: 2005
Mrs. Rooke began piano lessons at age 6 and kept adding to her repertoire, playing violin, guitar, and participating in her high school's Choir, Orchestra, Strolling Strings, Vocal Jazz, and Jazz Band.
"Music education is important for so many reasons, but I work really hard to create a “family” climate in my music classroom. I want my kids to know that are supported by me and their fellow choristers—both in their pursuit of being a better musician, and also in dealing with the ups and downs of life. We work hard together and feel failure and success together, which creates an amazing bond!
"The Band Boosters are so great at doing what needs to be done to help us meet the needs of our music program. They bought the high school choir a new $33,000 grand piano with only 3 months of fundraising!"
John Bisbee, Williston High School Band and Choir Director
First year in District #1: 2017
Mr. Bisbee is a Williston native, a product of Mr. and Mrs. Rooke's Music Department at Williston High School. He began playing clarinet in 5th grade but ended up performing oboe throughout high school. He was named to three North Dakota All-State Music Festivals.
"I believe it is important every student has the opportunity to learn and love music. I strive to create safe and inviting environment for all students and help them love and appreciate music.
"The Williston Band Boosters are an important part of the music program in Williston. They help us provide the best education we can to our students by providing resources and funding to help our students succeed. The Band Boosters have helped to provide many of the instruments in our percussion section as well as other school instruments. In fact, I learned how to play oboe on an instrument purchased by Band Booster funding!"
Nicole Rumppe, Williston Middle School Band Director
First year in District #1: 2012
Mrs. Rumppe has been performing since she was young; starting with church choirs, competitive dance groups, and playing the clarinet in elementary school. She continued playing at a high level through high school and college, being selected for multiple Minnesota All-State Bands before attending Concordia College on a performance scholarship. Rumppe continues to be an active performer in Williston, participating in the Williston Community Band, playing polka with a group she founded, and playing in the pit for Entertainment, Inc.
"Music is a unique subject because it encompasses so many other subjects and skills. When you learn to read music you are learning a new language, you use math skills to count rhythms, and you read in the same manner you would read a book. Music teaches us about our emotions, it teaches students how to work as a team, and it teaches us that individual work will help to achieve a common goal.
"The Williston Band Boosters most recently helped to fund raise for and purchased brand new jackets to be worn as marching uniforms for the WMS bands. They support our music students while they are in our classrooms, but also help to encourage them to do more by assisting students financially with registrations to honor bands and scholarships for music camp over the summer."
Bridget Stepan, Bakken Elementary School Band Director
First year in District #1: 2015
Mrs. Stepan started her music and performing arts career early, when she began Irish Dancing and playing the penny whistle at age 10. She moved on to clarinet, which she played throughout middle and high school, earning Montana All-State honors.
"Music is the core to our fundamental being and culture. It is a part of what makes us human: to be empathetic, to celebrate, to mourn, and show love. Music is vital to education. It is a language we all can learn and understand, regardless of race or background. Music unites everyone by forming lasting friendships. The things that music can foster and teach are endless and it is why I could never grow tired of this field. Once you are a part of band, choir, guitar or have taken lessons on piano, that lasts you forever. Music is permanent.
"Williston Band Boosters is so important to helping our growing programs with clinics, trips, and providing instruments to our bands for families in need."
Photographs courtesy of Shawna Thomas Photography.