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2023 Oakes Public Schools Hall of Fame Inductee: Susan German

Sue German

Oakes Public Schools is happy to announce that their 2023 Hall of Fame recipient is Susan (Sue) German. The ceremony will take place in the OHS South Gym on Monday, September 18, at 7:00 pm. There will be a reception from 5:45 – 6:45 in the high school band room. Colleagues, former students, band parents, friends, and relatives are cordially invited to attend the reception and presentation.

Susan Holmes attended Guelph Public School and graduated as valedictorian of The Class of 1969. During her years at Guelph, she was very involved in the band and choir programs, pianist, plays, and newsletter. She attended regional and state music contests as a saxophone and vocal soloist and also served as an accompanist.

Her band director was Ray Hollan who organized the band program at Guelph in the 1950’s. After her fifth grade year, Sue remembers Mr. Hollan telling her, “If you keep practicing, you will be really good some day!” With their roles reversed, Mrs. German and Ray Hollan connected again in 1982 when the Guelph Community Band was organized to play for the Guelph Centennial in 1983. Ray came to Guelph each year to play with the band for the next 35 years until his passing, while Mrs. German directed the band.

Sue attended Valley City State University where she was involved in marching band, concert band, pep band, jazz band, choir, College Singers, and acted in many Attic Theater plays and musicals. She was a member of Philomathian Society, a national Academic fraternity, a Theater fraternity, and was the first female to perform an instrument (saxophone) with the EBC Fraternity Hit Parade orchestra. She graduated in 1973 with highest honors with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Composite Music Education (band and choir, elementary and high school).

Mrs. German taught in Lisbon for thirteen years before moving back to the Oakes area permanently. She was very grateful for her mentor, Ken Berntson, with whom she shared the music program band and choir duties for grades 5 – 12. In Lisbon she was choir director at Trinity Lutheran Church and served in district, regional and state offices of the North Dakota Jayceettes, a volunteer organization of about 2,000 women in the state. She was state president of the ND Jayceettes in 1982-83.

In 1987, Mrs. German opened a private music studio with studies in piano, voice, and instruments in Oakes. She also taught band and choir at Dickey Central High School until the school closed in 1991, and taught music and band in Fullerton Elementary School until that school closed in 1993. In Dickey Central her students earned “Star” ratings at the regional contests for the first time in many years and earned the right to attend the State Music Festival. Elementary students performed in staged Christmas and spring musicals every year.

Mrs. German was an innovator in many areas of the Oakes band and music program during her fifteen years in that position. She organized a Jazz Band that performed

locally for many events, earned numerous Region VI awards, participated and earned plaques at the Northern State Jazz Festival, and performed at the North Dakota Music Educators Conference in Bismarck.

She connected with and supported the athletic department with an active Pep Band that performed for all sports, and had competitive dress-up “pink” nights. She created a lettering system for both Jazz Band and Pep Band. Marching Band homecoming half-time shows were written and orchestrated by her. Mrs. German enjoyed creating musicals for the elementary students at both Christmas and spring concerts.

The Oakes Concert Band became known throughout the state, as soloists and ensembles earned numerous regional and state awards, and the band earned many “Outstanding Concert Band” awards in Region VI. The band took trips and performed in New York at the United Nations, Chicago, St. Louis, and was chosen to perform at Disneyworld in 2011.

The band learned philanthropy by collecting new and used shoes for “Soles for Souls”, raised money for hurricane victims in Haiti, and sent care kits to soldiers in Iraq. Band students auditioned and earned the right to play with many honor bands, including the North Dakota All-State Band.

In 2011-12, the Oakes Concert Band earned its highest honor by being named the ND Governor’s Band. The band performed a concert in Oakes in April 2012, for a large crowd including Governor and Mrs. Dalrymple. They also performed at the State Capitol in May 2012.

During her teaching years, Mrs. German was an active member of several education organizations including NEA, NDMEA, OEA; North Dakota Chapter of the National Band Association, serving as secretary; a charter member of the ND Chapter of Phi Beta Mu, international bandmasters’ fraternity, serving as president for five years.

Mrs. German was awarded the “Certificate of Merit” award from VCSU in 2012 where she sponsors a yearly scholarship for music education majors. She was named “North Dakota Music Teacher of the Year” (Citation of Excellence) in 2012 by the North Dakota Chapter of the National Band Association.

After retirement in May 2012, Mrs. German remains involved and serves in leadership roles in many local organizations including Grace Lutheran Church as choir director, director of the Oakes Community Choir and Community Bell Choir; worship committee; Oakes Active Arts Club; Delta Kappa Gamma, Key Women Educators’ organization; Country Rose Homemakers; Guelph Community Development Association and Guelph Community Band director; ND region and state contest adjudicator, and substitute teacher for music and band at Oakes. She has sent hundreds of hand-written notes to Oakes students congratulating them for their academic, Fine Arts, and athletic accomplishments.

Mrs. German and Mrs. Hay, along with several former band parents worked on purging the Oakes Band Room in the summer of 2022. They sold old band uniforms and preserved OHS music history by searching and gathering awards earned by music students through the years. They attained funds to build awards cases in the band room. Mrs. German sent letters and returned individual awards plaques and ensemble awards plaques to those who had earned them years ago. She also created a Fine Arts trophy case in the hall near the band room to preserve department history and that of the drama and speech departments.

Mrs. German is married to Chuck German, her biggest supporter! They have a blended family of seven children and 24 grandchildren. The family enjoys time together at Elm Lake, their home in Ludden, and at concerts, plays, and sporting events of the grandchildren.

Mrs. German and her band students lived by this quote that she had posted on the wall of the band room in 1997:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” - Aristotle

Contact: Cari Haugen or Maureen Wentworth at Oakes Public School with any questions. 701-742-3234.