In Search Of…A Man Ending his Career on the Right Note 1/12/06


When you look at the dynasty the Onalaska Hilltoppers Show Choir is today, it’s hard to imagine they were ever less
than stellar. But when director Paul Gulsvig came to the district back in 1978, it was quite a different
story. “There were 24 kids in the show choir and then a piano player.”

Over the next 28 years, Gulsvig would lead the Hilltoppers to the top of the hill. During his tenure, they’ve won
countless competitions and are now considered by many to be among the best in the nation. But for Gulsvig, all the
awards are just icing on what has become a very big cake. “We throw the trophy’s away every year, because I consider
the event and the memories much more important than the actual rank.”

Speaking of events, this weekend, this music man will take part in his19th and final Onalaska Show Choir Classic, an
event he started from the ground up. Gulsvig has made the very difficult decision to call it quits at the end of the
year after nearly three decades as the schools concert and show choir director. “I’ve been starting every September by
going to school for the last 50 years. I’ve always known exactly what I was going to do. So next fall is going to be

Paul Gulsvig is ‘that’ teacher, the one that seems to make an impact in the lives of all his students.
“He’s really inspirational and he’s taught so many life lessons to us. More than just music.” “He uses alot of
humor and stories to motivate his kids. He’s the reason I went into music.” “He’s such a good motivator and he’s so
positive when he teaches. I’m very proud of him, very proud of him.”
“I consider him a life long friend. I’m feeling bittersweet about him leaving. I had hoped that he’d be my
children’s teacher. I wish him the best. He’s certainly left a legacy here at Onalaska.”

“When you hear things like that, you well up. It makes you feel humble. I’ve tried my best. At times I was
great. At times I was terrible. And I hope people judge me when I was at my best.”

Now this is not a retirement for Paul Gulsvig, he tells us he hopes to hold Show Choir clinics around the
country, and possibly end up in Florida someday to be closer to his four-month-old twin granddaughters.

Best of luck to him and congratulations on a very successful run at Onalaska!

We’re always looking for unique people and places to spotlight in our ‘In search of…’ series. If you have a
suggestion, e-mail Jennifer Livingston at