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The Student News Site of Gretna East High School

The Wingspan

The Student News Site of Gretna East High School

The Wingspan

Former band student, current student teacher composer of school fight song

Ranae Duncan
Directing his first period band class, student teacher William Holke has students play “Lightning Field.” He had students play different notes by section as the class came to a close.

“Oh, we are Gretna East, The shining silver, black, and gold. We Griffins fly with ease, So let our strides be bold! (Fight! Fight! Fight!) Hear our battle cries, Our enemies will fear the beast! We Griffins dominate the skies, All hail to Gretna East!”

From football to basketball games, as soon as the band hits the familiar note, students, staff and the Griffin faithful stand together as one Griffin nation and sing these lyrics with pride. This song was composed by a Gretna alumnus who is now a student teacher at East.
Currently student teaching under band director Graham Leavell, William Holke, former Dragon band member, has returned to Gretna Public Schools. Before coming back though, he wrote and composed the school’s fight song, “Fighting Griffins.”
“Developing the fight song was a fun process,” Holke said. “Dr. Beran (the former superintendent) had told me he would like lyrics for the song, so I had to find rhythms that felt natural to say “Gretna East.” I wanted the tune to sound familiar yet very new, which I think is very fitting for Gretna East. I also wanted the fight song to be somewhat challenging as if to set the standard of excellence for the band. Lastly, I wanted the tune to be something quick, fast, and fun for the band to play when the football team scores and for other school events. Three months and several revisions later we have ‘Fighting Griffins!’”
Holke attends the University of Kansas and plans on finishing his training to be able to teach his students everything he’s learned over the years.
“Student teaching is a very unique experience,” Holke said. “I am already learning lots of great information from Mr. Leavell. I am applying everything I have learned up until this point into my own teaching and still learning new things every day. Being at Gretna Public Schools is a fantastic experience because the students and faculty are all amazing.”
He has been working with band students and conducting pieces that they will perform at competitions and concerts.
“He adds a lot more energy in the morning,” sophomore Eli Reinarz said. “He’s a very energetic and passionate person and he’s a big help around the band room.”
Holke discovered his passion for music with the help of former Gretna High School band teachers Andrew Norris and Landon Barada.
“When I was at Gretna, I gained my passion for music because my band teachers helped foster that interest and musical experience for me,” Holke said. “I hope to do the same with my teaching.”
Working alongside Leavell in the band department, Holke has gotten first-hand experience teaching and being a band director for students at different levels.
“He’s been able to work with both the middle school and high school students,” Leavell said. “I’ve been helping him with some of the stuff they don’t teach you in college about being a band director. Figuring out how to plan for everything and what to do in certain situations.”
Coming into his own as a teacher, Holke has bonded with his students and has started his own traditions and activities for the students to participate in to create a positive and happy environment.
“He has also started a ‘Fun Sock Friday’ where we get to show up in crazy socks and show them off, which is really fun to participate in,” Reinarz said.
According to Reinarz, Holke infuses his students and the band department with positive energy that students can build off of.
“Even though we have it first period and it is early, we really wake up and have a lot of fun whenever he is there,” Reinarz said. “You can tell he is very passionate about what he does and it rubs off on all of us too.”

Holke has an upcoming job interview with the district that would determine his future with GPS.

“I would love to teach at Gretna and continue helping students thrive in their musical growth,” Holke said.

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About the Contributor
Reese Beery, Reporter
Reese Beery is a sophomore in her first year on the journalism staff. She serves as a staff reporter. She enjoys many aspects of journalism including sports writing and photography. From capturing memories with a camera to halftime football reports, she gives it her all. She joined the journalism program because of her lifelong passion for writing and creativity. If she’s not working you can find her spending time with family, friends or attending sporting events, even if it’s just her little brother’s baseball games.
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