While it's a common occurrence for high school athletes to sign letters of intent regarding the collegiate sports programs they plan to join after graduation,
North Marion High School did things a little differently late last month and did a school signing event for two music students.
Surrounded by family, friends and teachers, Logan Gianella signed a letter of intent for Oregon State University and Mikayla Golka signed one for University of Oregon in the North Marion High School commons on May 22.
Both students have earned music scholarships to help them through their collegiate careers.
Additionally, Golka just learned she is receiving the Ford Scholarship, which funds up to 90 percent of unmet need.
"I just wanted the community to know we have musicians coming out of North Marion who play at a collegiate level, who were accepted into programs that also gave them scholarship money," music teacher Kaden Christensen said about why he proposed the idea of a school signing event. "These days, scholarship money to pursue music is getting harder and harder to come by, so we wanted to acknowledge these students' accomplishments."
Logan Gianella, who is band president, is planning to double major in piano performance and biology, with hopes of becoming an orthodontist one day.
"Piano is something I love to do and I want it to stay with me always, so I think by double majoring it will almost force me to not give it up when school gets busy," he said.
He chose Oregon State University because that's where he could pursue both interests.
"I like it because it's close to home but still more rural," Gianella said. "It's got a good science program and a good music program."
Gianella said his mom got him started on piano lessons at the age of 10 even though he was not interested at all.
"It was pretty fun once I actually started, but then when it got super hard I didn't want to keep it up," he admitted. "But my mom persisted that I had to keep practicing, and I'm glad she did because once I got through that hard part, I kind of have known what to do ever since. And I love it."
His parents, Amy and Jason Gianella, don't play piano themselves, but they've certainly encouraged their kids in pursuing that passion: There are currently five pianos in their house. Gianella's brother, Colby, also plays piano, and the two have performed around the area at concerts, fundraisers and more, specifically with Roger Wilhite, the North Marion Middle School music teacher who retired last year.
"I love doing that," Gianella said. "We do eight-hand piano and I'm super comfortable performing now."
And just in April, Gianella was named outstanding soloist in his division at the Pleasant Hill Jazz Festival, Christensen said.
"I definitely want to give a shoutout to my parents for supporting me," Gianella said.
In addition to his OSU Music Department Scholarship and OSU Academic Award, Gianella received the Hal Byers, Howard Giesey, Les Schwab and Winniger/Gaylord scholarships.
Mikayla Golka has dreams to become a music teacher, something she credits to her music teacher, Christensen. When he was a high school student, he came to her middle school classroom to demonstrate the bassoon and she fell in love — with the bassoon, that is.
"It's so weird and unique and versatile," she said. "And the sound is so cool. It's fun to play but it's constantly challenging, just enough to keep me intrigued."
She took bassoon lessons from Christensen, who she said is "the biggest reason I chose to go into music education. I like that I can still perform but also make a difference in people's lives. I'm a living example of that."
Like Christensen, Golka, who also plays tenor saxophone in the jazz band, is attending University of Oregon, where she was admitted into the music school, which even has a bassoonist professor.
"There are 12 bassoonists. I'm really excited because there's never been anyone else I know who plays bassoon (at North Marion, apart from Christensen)," Golka said. "I don't think there's a better place for me than University of Oregon. If I were a town I would be Eugene. And of course UO has a great music program."
Not only was she admitted, but Golka received the Elizabeth Hoke Music Scholarship for $3,000 a year. She's also received the PEO Chapter DT Scholarship, the Hal Byers Scholarship and the Willie Keil Scholarship. But her college future seems to be secured financially with the recent news that she was named a Ford Scholarship recipient. Of nearly 7,300 applicants, only 200 are interviewed, and of those, only 110 Oregon students are selected for the scholarship.
"My mom got the mail really late, at like midnight, so she came into my room at midnight to tell me. I don't think I was excited really, because I was asleep," Golka said. "But then when I woke up the next day and saw the letter on my desk, I realized it wasn't a dream."
Golka, who's the daughter of Michelle Bryan, said this year has been tense as she's had to wait until the end of the school year to find out if she can actually afford a post-secondary education.
"We struggle financially, we have my whole life, so to get into college I really had to push myself," Golka said.