Chilton graduate Julianna Dedering fondly remembers her time spent in FFA programs.
Chilton graduate Julianna Dedering fondly remembers her time spent in FFA programs.
Those involved in local FFA chapters and alumni groups know the immense number of opportunities offered to students across the state of Wisconsin.
The wide scope of local and state FFA programs available affords students opportunities to learn and participate on a national level as well.
Two FFA programs include unique state and national opportunities for vocal and instrumental high school and college age students.
The Wisconsin State FFA Honors Chorus and the Wisconsin State FFA Honors Band are auditioned programs that each consist of approximately 80 students chosen from across the state of Wisconsin.
Those selected each year represent their communities and the state FFA organization in public performances at the Wisconsin State FFA Convention held each June in Madison, and the Wisconsin State Fair in August. High school and college FFA members are allowed to audition and participate in the honors programs for five years.
The State FFA Honors Choir, led by long time director Peter Engh, and the FFA Honors Band, led by long time director Monte Dunnum, are comprised of students who are chosen from applications and auditions to participate in the prestigious groups which represent their communities, local FFA chapters and the Wisconsin FFA Organization.
Those selected meet for the first time at the annual Wisconsin State FFA Convention held at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison in June where they begin intense rehearsals and numerous performances. They are often referred to as the entertainment of the convention.
Both meet again at the Wisconsin State Fair where they rehearse and perform three times daily for four consecutive days in August.
State FFA Honors Chorus and Honors Band members have the opportunity to then be  nominated by their State FFA directors to audition and participate in the National Chorus and Band programs for a maximum of two years.  

Dedering in state and national choir
Chilton High School graduate Julianna Dedering participated with the State FFA Honors Chorus while a sophomore in high school in 2004. “I attended the Wisconsin State FFA Convention with other members from my local chapter and saw and heard the State FFA Chorus perform and looked into applying,” Dedering said. “I have always been an avid musician and felt that the FFA choruses would be great opportunities to further my involvement in FFA and music alike.”
Some of Dedering’s favorite memories from her time with the State FFA Honors Chorus included learning choreography in a large group, late night karaoke at the Chicken Shack, and ice-skating at the State Fair.  
Dedering participated in the State FFA Honors Chorus for two years before auditioning for the National FFA Honors Chorus in 2005.
“The 78th National FFA Convention was in Louisville, Kentucky at Freedom Hall in October of 2005,” she explained. “Our director was Patti LaJoye. I truly enjoyed meeting new people, the experience of a national stage performing in front of over 50,000 FFA members in attendance that year, and the hard work associated with the experience.”
Dedering said three rehearsals each day, wearing “vocal rest” signs, and the countless new friendships made were all part of what she called a wonderful experience. “The National FFA Chorus was a 94 person chorus with participants from 36 states and Puerto Rico,” she said. “ I was one of nine participants from Wisconsin. The opportunity for travel was also a great experience and would not have been possible without the scholarship I received from the local FFA Alumni Association. I was extremely fortunate to have such a wonderful support system.”
“I was able to gain many skills and abilities by participating,” she added. “Independence in traveling and representing my local chapter and state, functioning within a large group in an extremely quick time frame, adapting to new situations rapidly, self-awareness, confidence, reliance, being more outgoing, and improving upon social skills and networking abilities across the nation.”
The National Convention performances with laser shows, and entertaining the crowd and getting them excited about celebrating another year of great accomplishments of the organization is something she said she will not forget. “I also really enjoyed the smaller performances we did at National Convention for banquets and meetings of officers and administrators,” she added.
Dederings parents enjoyed her participation in the FFA choruses as well. “I was very proud of her for gaining these opportunities and I really enjoyed watching her performances with the State FFA Chorus at the Wisconsin State Fair,” Gail Dedering said.
Dedering’s father James added, “Being a former Chilton FFA member myself, it was quite an accomplishment for her to participate in these honors choruses.”

Fantastic opportunities in FFA
Chilton FFA Advisor Amy Thielman said the Chilton FFA Chapter has had several participants in the Honors Chorus including Kasey Burg, Kyle Schneider, Jamie Reichwald and Dedering.  “Kasey and Julianna have partook in the National Chorus,” she added.
“As far as advisor perspective on state participation, I believe it’s a fantastic opportunity to reward active FFA members with opportunities beyond the local level,” Thielman said. “The Chilton FFA has had much state participation over the years from statewide leadership workshops, conventions, state choir, speaking competitions and career development teams that have qualified to advance to the state competition. In all of these events, as far as individual gain goes,  I feel that would be personal for each participant as everyone embraces opportunities and takes from them different things.”

Reichwald loved chorus family
Chilton graduate Jamie Reichwald participated in the Honors Chorus for two years in 2012 and 2013.
“A member in my FFA Chapter joined and the way he talked about it I had to go,” she said. “I loved how we were a big family. Everyone got along and made everyone feel included.”
Reichwald said it was rewarding for her to go out of her comfort zone and meet new people. “By the end I knew almost everyone.”
Favorite memories of her participation in the chorus include walking around the State Fair and singing together. “It sounded amazing,” she said.  

Burg in chorus for five years
Chilton graduate Kasey Burg first auditioned for the State FFA Honors Chorus in 2011. That began a five year run in the chorus as Burg will finish his final year with the group this summer.
Burg said he found out about the chorus late in his sophomore year of high school and auditioned his junior year.
“My experiences in the chorus ended up becoming an amazing experience as well as growing my musical family, the people I have come to know throughout my years involved in music,” he said.

“I have had FFA Chorus members previously at my old teaching position in Clintonville and they really enjoyed it,” Heinbuch added. “They make lots of friends and a lifetime of memories. In the past, every student I have had in the FFA band or choir have always continued with the program until they were too old to continue anymore.”
Six New Holstein FFA Chapter members will attend this year’s state convention including Allison Diederich, Lilly Feider, Curtis Steffes, Teagan Turba, Kaylee Warner and Jacob Woelfel.  “Lilly and Kaylee are in the FFA band, and Lilly is also participating in the Prepared Speaking Contest. Lilly is also competing to be a National Delegate at the National FFA Convention this fall in Indianapolis, Indiana. Teagan and Curtis will be our official delegates of the convention and Jacob Woelfel will be participating in the FFA flag ceremony,” Heinbuch said.

Proud to be a member
Dedering is proud to be a second generation FFA member. “FFA is a wonderful organization with great opportunities to grow and learn not only in music, but in life,” Dedering said. “The FFA is not just for farmers or hicks, it’s for everyone. I have been able to learn interpersonal skills, entrepreneur abilities, self-confidence, and leadership skills. The opportunity to learn more about FFA in different ways, learn about other chapter’s activities really opens your eyes and imagination for entrepreneurship projects and chapter programs.”
“I would encourage other FFA members to take these years to get out of their comfort zones, explore what FFA can really do for you and what it all offers. Learn to network and take every opportunity to gain new experience,” she added.
“There are so many great opportunities to explore in this organization without traveling or music. It truly stands for so many wonderful things and I try to continue to live by the FFA Creed. The values and traditions of the National FFA Association truly show you that hard work really pays off.”

Others encouraged to participate
“The ability to represent my local chapter, serve the organization, and provide entertainment at the state level for FFA was amazing,” Dedering said.
“I would definitely encourage others to join the FFA Honors Chorus and Honors Band,” Burg said. “It is an experience like no other and you will form lasting friendships.”
“Every singer that is in FFA should go for the Honors Chorus for at least one year. It is so much fun,” Reichwald added. “It changed my life for the better.”

The 2016 State FFA Honors Chorus and Honors Band will perform at the Wisconsin State FFA Convention at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison on Tuesday, June 14 through Thursday, June 16. Wisconsin State Fair performances are scheduled for August 11 through 14.
More information on FFA and the State FFA Honors Chorus and Honors Band can be found by visiting http://www.wisconsinffa.org/programs/.