A Mechanic with Music in his Heart

Killdeer Graduate Part of a Band on the Run

Stage band Leighton

By Staff Writer

For the DC Herald

Leighton Schaper a musician? Yup. And a pretty good one, at that.

Nobody would’ve thought that two years ago, when Schaper was a student at Killdeer High School. He was known for his work with the FFA and his skill tinkering with engines.

But on Thursday, his friends and former schoolmates got to see a different side of the soft-spoken Schaper. He was the guitar-playing sophomore in the Stage Band from the North Dakota State College of Science.

Schaper has been a member of the band on the run from Wahpeton for the past two years and has performed in front of audiences in about 30 schools.

The Killdeer performance was a stop in the band’s final 5-gig tour of the season that included stops in Minot and Dickinson. The band and the school’s choir have visited 15 schools in North Dakota and Minnesota since October.

Schaper plays the guitar for the band, which performs music from Country to Jazz to Rock. This select ensemble provides entertainment at a variety of events for the College, within the community and on tour.

“It’s pretty exciting coming back, as long as they enjoy the show,” chuckled the 2014 Killdeer graduate, in a phone interview prior to the concert. “I know they will. It’s a good show. Plus, it’ll get them out of class.”

The 20-year-old Schaper didn’t expect to be in the band when he enrolled at North Dakota State College of Science to pursue a degree in Diesel Technology. His goal is to be a diesel mechanic.

While in high school, he liked to work on anything with an engine. He worked in a mechanics shop in Grassy Butte and tinkered with his family’s vehicles. He didn’t mind picking the grease from under his finger nails.

He also picked on the guitar, something he learned to do in the sixth grade. But he rarely played in public, preferring instead to perform in the solitude of his personal Camelot. The music – country, rock, and jazz – that came from Schaper’s talented fingers was soothing, almost intoxicating.

It was something he really wasn’t comfortable sharing.

“It was just something I liked to do it on the side,” he said.

But that changed on that first day on campus. And it all happened by chance. He was getting ready to register when a lady he didn’t know walked up to him and asked if he played an instrument – particularly the guitar.

That lady was Laurie Lekang, an associate professor and department chair for the Performing Arts program. She often talked to students, encouraging them to embrace everything the school offered, and that included Performing Arts.

“I told her I played the guitar and I gave her my number,” Schaper said. “I didn’t give it much thought. Then, the first day of school, she called me in to see if I could play. There was one other kid who was going to audition. I played and she said, ‘OK, if you want to be in the band, I’ll register you for classes.’”

Lekang is glad she talked to Schaper that day.

“He was a total surprise. I had never heard of Killdeer and I didn’t know his guitar background,” she said.

She learned quickly of his talent, and then later, his demeanor.

“He’s just a wonderful kid. He’s intelligent. He’s good with people and he’s a great guitar player,” she said.

He still has mechanics in his future. But for now, music is in his heart.

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