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Home Arts & Culture Student Volunteers Make Gathering of the Talents a Success

by April Bayer

Close to a hundred student workers and volunteers come together each year to make Concordia’s annual Gathering of the Talents a success.

Concordia has welcomed thousands of Lutheran elementary and middle school students to its campus for the talent competition over the years. For decades, children have been recognized for their talents in music, art, dance, writing and drama. Behind the scenes, a large group of Concordia students comes together to make it happen.

Each of the five talent divisions has one or two student chairs who are tasked with organizing events, gathering materials, and recruiting judges and volunteers.

The planning process looks different for each division. Judges in the Art and Creative Writing divisions evaluate submissions beforehand and meet with students in 10-minute increments on the day of the event to provide feedback. They also host art and writing workshops so the students can continue to develop their talents.  

Junior Victoria Cameron was one of this year’s co-chairs for the Creative Writing division along with junior Bethany Schilling. Cameron said the two attended planning meetings together and worked to plan a poetry workshop.

“This year they’re going to focus on the sounds of words,” Cameron said. “They’ll be thinking about poetry and how you consider sound. We really like using object poems because having tactile things to work with is really great for the kids.”

The Music, Drama and Dance divisions have to judge performances in real time, so they often devote more time to recruiting judges and preparing performance spaces.

“It really shows off how incredible our students are, that we can just ask around at random, ‘Hey, do you want to work this?’ and feel completely comfortable that we have plenty of qualified students who will be able to do the judging accurately and kindly and give great feedback to the kids,” Cameron said.

One student who is especially involved in planning the festivities is sophomore Michelle Porath, who works as Gathering of the Talents Assistant Coordinator alongside Enrollment Services Specialist Rebecca Bimler.

Porath helps to plan each student’s individual schedule for the day, organizes event locations, resolves scheduling conflicts, prints evaluations and certificates, and communicates with schools.

One recent change to the event is the removal of the ribbon system, in which students were awarded colored ribbons based on their performance. Instead, each division recognizes a few outstanding pieces or performances in a closing awards ceremony. Porath said this was meant to encourage more of a celebration and development of talents rather than a competition.

“The main idea behind that switch was to take away the competitive aspect and bring in more of an appreciation for the arts,” Porath said.

The Gathering of the Talents has also made an effort to showcase the talents of Concordia students in recent years. This year the event featured performances from the Concordia IMPROVables and Jazz Ensemble as well as opportunities to meet Bruiser the Bulldog and view student artwork in the Marxhausen Gallery of Art.

“I think it’s great to highlight that appreciation for the arts because I think a lot of times on college campuses the emphasis can be on sports,” Porath said. “We have a lot of sports clinics for kids, and we don’t have as many opportunities for that other means of learning and for kids that are interested in music to get exposed to Concordia at an early age, which is why I think it’s really great that we’re having Concordia groups perform as well, to show kids that it’s something they can continue.”

This year’s Gathering of the Talents included 25 schools with 190 participants. To learn more, visit

Student chairs and co-chairs for the 2019 Gathering of the Talents included:

Art: Sarah Johnson (junior)

Creative Writing: Bethany Schilling (junior) and Victoria Cameron (junior)

Dance: Kalina Schoenfeld (sophomore)

Drama: Mary Kohnke (sophomore) and Chelsea Irwin (senior)

Music: Corrianne Cain (junior) and Bethany Zeckzer (freshman)

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