Culler teacher Teresa Ghormley pens musical for middle school students

Teresa Ghormley was scanning through scripts of potential musicals this summer without finding anything she felt excited about using for her Culler Middle School students.
She decided the best solution was to write her own storyline for them to perform on stage.
Twenty-eight Cougars have been working on lines, lyrics and songs for “Bobbie the Kid and the Tiger Gang.” Ghormley penned the musical about pacifist residents of a Western town called Pickens.

The score features bluegrass-style instruments such as a fiddle, banjo, mandolin and piano influenced by the educator’s roots. She even called on her father to play in the live bluegrass band for the production. The musical’s plot teaches students how to do the right thing in every situation.
Ghormley said she has enjoyed watching students bring her script to life. She said she has been impressed with their imagination and ingenuity during every step of the process.
“It’s been really fun,” Ghormley said. “When you’re writing it you imagine it going one way, and then the kids do it slightly different, and it’s a better way. It’s pretty awesome to see their creativity with this musical.”
Ghormley has taught instrumental music at Culler for the past seven years. She earned degrees from both Hastings High School and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before beginning her teaching career. She previously helped with music and theater productions at Columbus Public Schools before taking over the band and orchestra programs at Culler.
Ghormley owns extensive experience in band, orchestra, choir and theater activities. One of her favorite types of music is bluegrass, and she wanted to share those notes with her students in the play. That background gave her the idea of writing a Western-themed production that was both humorous and heartwarming.

Ghormley said the common thread running through the plot of the play is that the town was founded by pacifists. As the story unfolds, the audience watches the infamous Tiger Gang rob Bobbie several times. She explores her pacifist ideals in the face of the injustice she has suffered.
“In the end, she finds a way to save the day and learns that if you are brave and clever, you can always find a way to do what’s right,” Ghormley said.
Seventh-grade student Connelly plays the role of Bessie in the production. She said cast members have enjoyed being the first group to perform Ghormley’s musical.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Connelly said. “We were all very excited when she told us she had written it.”
Sixth-grade student Elsa is filling the leading role of Bobbie the Kid. Her older sister Lydia had performed in plays under Ghormley when she was at Culler, and she encouraged Elsa to try out for “Bobbie the Kid and the Tiger Gang.”
“My friends wanted me to be in it with them, and my sister was in it last year too,” Elsa said. “She said it would be a lot of fun to be in the play, so I thought I would do it. I’m glad I did. I’ve been having a lot of fun too.”
Elsa delivers several solos throughout the 40-minute musical. She has used her singing experience to handle the spotlight with ease. She performs in choirs both at Culler and her local church.
“It’s fun to sing,” Elsa said.
Seventh-grade student A.J. is filling the role of Old Hank on stage. She said she has met new friends from all grade levels during practices this fall.
“I really like theater,” A.J. said. “I like being around a bunch of people, so this has been really good.”
Ghormley said one of her top goals was to write a script that gave many students opportunities to shine.
“There are a lot of plays out there where you have one or two leading roles and everyone else is in the background, so it was important to me to have a lot of kids on stage,” Ghormley said. “Everyone is pretty much on stage the whole time, which is something that I think helps. Everyone has an important part to play.”
Ghormley has also trusted students with many responsibilities. None of the characters except for Bobbie the Kid, Bessie and Old Hank had names in the original script, so students were able to choose what they called their characters. They also selected their own costumes and helped paint set-design props such as four prickly cacti.
“They’ve taken ownership of the entire show,” Ghormley said. “I’ve been really proud of them. They’ve done such a great job of making this their musical.”
Culler students began practicing in September and held their first dress rehearsal Nov. 6. They practiced with the full pit band Nov. 9 and held two public performances Nov. 10.
The musical was the first performance in Culler’s newly-renovated auditorium. Donors contributed nearly $130,000 for auditorium updates through the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools.
Connelly said she was glad Ghormley decided to write the musical.
“There are a lot of chances to meet fun people and do fun things together,” Connelly said. “I’ve liked it a lot.”
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Published: November 17, 2023, Updated: November 18, 2023

Culler Middle School students smile during one scene of their fall musical. Culler teacher Teresa Ghormley wrote the music and script for the production. She created a Western-themed storyline that teaches students how to do the right thing in every situation.