THE STORY OF OLATHE EAST CHORAL MUSIC
A legacy of excellence...
Established in 1992, Olathe East is a leading high school in the midwest for academics, athletics, and performing arts. We currently serve a population of almost 2,000 students each day, and offer a wide array of activities for students to engage in.
The Choral Music program was founded by the inimitable Texanna Ollenberger. A KMEA Hall of Fame Educator, recipient of the Harry Robert WIlson Award through KCDA, and a legend of the craft, Texanna gave Olathe East Choirs a profound beginning.
In 2000, the program welcomed it’s most long-standing director, Dr. Dwayne Dunn. Under the direction of Dr. Dunn, the Olathe East Choirs performed at numerous festivals and received many awards. Convention performances include the Kansas Music Educators Association in 2007, and the MENC Biennial Convention in 2008. Awards include Superior ratings and Best-in-Class awards at both the Alamo Showcase of Music in 2002, the Spring in the Park Music Festival in 2010, and the Dallas Classic Festival in 2011. During these years, they also toured internationally in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Canada, and throughout the United States.
Following Dr. Dunn were the tenures of Dustin Cates and Susan Scheibler from 2011-2018. During these transitions, Mr. Cates and Mrs. Scheibler continued the exceptional growth in the program, culminating in a 2018 performance at the Kansas Music Educators Association.
In the Fall of 2018, following Mrs. Scheibler’s retirement, the program invited its fifth director, Mr. Baker Purdon. Since his appointment, the Olathe East Choirs have been invited to perform at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts twice, have been invited to perform in Lincoln Center in March of 2020, and have received wonderful reviews from composers such as Dan Forrest, Sarah Quartel, and Darius Lim. Leading to our 2019 contest season, we were honored to perform the premiere of Libby Larsen’s Clair de Lune in Blue, of which she praised their “wonderful musicianship in every aspect.” As the program enters this new era, we look forward to continuing to grow the excellence in both musicianship and citizenship of our singers.
Mr. Purdon is thrilled to be starting his first year in the Olathe East Choral Music program. He has spent the previous three years at Liberty High School in Liberty, MO working with Dr. Rika R. Heruth. Prior to his work in Liberty, Mr. Purdon completed a Master of Arts in Education at The University of Central Missouri and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater & Voice Performance at The University of Kansas. At KU, he studied under Professor Paul Laird (musicology), Mark Ferrell (collaborative piano), and Distinguished Professor Joyce Castle (voice). He was awarded both an Undergraduate Research Grant to study and create an original musical revue titled "Women On Stage: Female Caricatures on Broadway" as well as the Tom P. and Shirley Rea Memorial Award, denoting the most promising performer of his graduating class.
At UCM, Mr. Purdon focused his research on Content Area Literacy and Educational Technology. This culminated in a 2017 invitation to present his session titled "Time Saving Tech: Digitizing Your Secondary Music Program" at the Missouri Choral Directors Association summer conference. Mr. Purdon was also appointed by Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson to the 2018 Music Standards Revision Committee.
Mr. Purdon has been seen as a music director, conductor, and musician in various local, regional, and national productions of The Sound of Music, Urinetown, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Peter Pan, John & Jen,A Chorus Line, and many more. He is the regional accompanist for both the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) and The Book of Mormon, LLC.
Mr. Purdon is an active member of the American Choral Directors Association, the National Association for Music Education, the Kansas Music Educators Association, and regularly participates in the Kansas and National Festivals of the International Thespian Society.
Deborah Hill just completed her 19th year of teaching choral music at Santa Fe Trail Middle School in Olathe. She studied music education at Southern Illinois University, Illinois State University, and choral conducting at The University of Kansas. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Teaching and Learning from Avila University. She previously taught choral music in both middle and high schools in central Illinois and worked as a church staff member directing youth and children's choirs, as well as a Director of Music in church settings. During that time, Mrs. Hill also ran a private voice and piano studio, completed the Level III Training of the Choral Music Experience, and several International Association of Jazz Educators Teacher Training Institutes.
She was a staff member with the Allegro Children's Choirs for eight years, serving as rehearsal assistant for Allegro con Moto and assistant conductor for Allegro con Brio. While teaching at Santa Fe Trail, she served as chairperson of the Building Level Team, district facilitator for middle level choral music, a mentor and orientation partner for new teachers int he district and was selected twice as her building's nominee for Kansas Teacher of the Year. She has also served on numerous committees during her time with the Olathe District Schools. Most recently she was a member of the Kansas Can Mercury 7 Redesign Team at Santa Fe Trail.
Mrs. Hill has served as a clinician and adjudicator and is an active member of the Kansas Choral Directors Association, serving four years as the chair of the Repertoire and Standards for Women's Choirs and coordinating the women's Statewide Honor Choirs during the KCDA Summer Conference. She is also active in the Kansas Music Educators Association, serving as the chair for Middle Level Choirs coordinating the All-State Middle Level Choir. She currently serves as the Middle Level Choir Chair for the ECKMEA Honor Choir.
Deb and her husband Dave are the parents of three amazing children, and enjoy spending time with their two beautiful grandchildren.
Dr. Schrag is a native Kansan and has pursued bachelor and doctoral degrees in her home state. She has performed recitals and as soloist with orchestras in the U.S., Poland and Hungary. Additionally, she has participated in masterclasses with professors of the Liszt Academy, the Peabody Institute, Indiana University, Juilliard, and more. She has a serious love for teaching and currently maintains an active teaching studio in Olathe, Kansas where she is also the accompanist at Olathe East High School.
Her recent performances included the premier of Sonata for Saxophone by Mike Leibowitz at the University of Oklahoma, a lecture recital on the Liszt song transcriptions with baritone, Dr. Robert McNichols, Jr., and a collaborative recording with saxophonists, Dr. Crystal Alexander and Keri Wing. Dr. Schrag also enjoys jazz, cooking, and most of all, spending time with her trusty sidekick, Amélia Schhrag-McNichols.