Tech-ing the high road

From left (with back to camera), Holy Cross band teacher Nick Andrews, Patrick Komlofske, Emma Baldwin and Mason Roberts experiment with the sound mixer. This piece of equipment is essential in the sound production of the school’s upcoming drama performance in April. LEAVEN PHOTO BY OLIVIA MARTIN

by Olivia Martin
olivia.martin@theleaven.org

OVERLAND PARK — Every Monday morning, Patrick Komlofske leaves work an hour early.

Not because he “just can’t” or because he hates Mondays. (He arrives an hour early to make up for the time.)

But because on Mondays, he has to make sure he gets to Holy Cross Grade School in Overland Park before it lets out, where he preps for the audio technician class he teaches to a small group of middle school students.

Komlofske isn’t a teacher, but his experience with sound technology as a systems analyst and the founder and owner of JMJ Communications has equipped him with the perfect tools to engage eager young minds.

“I love volunteering,” said Komlofske. “It started years ago when I got asked to help with the Christmas choir. I fell in love with it — seeing the talent of the children was really wonderful.”

Over the years, Komlofske has become more involved in the school, with the Knights of Columbus and at Holy Cross, his parish — from teaching basic tech skills to home-schooled children to renovating Holy Cross’ sound system.

“I’ve known Patrick for 15 years or so,” said Allison Carney, principal of Holy Cross Grade School and a fellow parishioner of Komlofske.

“We’ve contacted him over the years to help out with little things around the school,” she said. “Recently . . . with some Fund-A-Need money we had from our auction last year, he helped us purchase our own equipment that would better prepare us to run our own musicals and plays.”

“And then, with that, he offered to run this tech program, so he could teach specific kids how to run the sound system,” said Carney.

This was to be no casual mentoring.

“It was my goal,” said Komlofske, “to come up with a manual with a curriculum for what [the middle school students] will do.”

The students learn everything from cables and connectors to production design and sound mixer operation. Seventh-grader Trevor Obershaw’s eyes light up just talking about getting to work with the big equipment.

“I think it’s all just so interesting,” said Obershaw. “It’s not like you’re sitting in a classroom where your teacher says, ‘Open to page 55 and start reading.’

“We actually get to do fun stuff like hooking everything up. Every day is new.”

Seventh-grader Sabrina Dean especially enjoys playing a hand in making the final product, the school play, look amazing. And the talent for tech is in her blood.

“My dad’s a tech person, so he’s really into me learning about all of this stuff, and it’s fun learning about it!”

Komlofske is as thorough a teacher as he is tech-savvy. Within the curriculum he designed for the students, each time a student masters a specific skill, he or she receives a certificate to demonstrate their knowledge, safety with the equipment and ability to problem-solve.

That way, whenever the school or church needs help with setting up lights or sound, they’ll know which students they can call.

Komlofske’s work with the students has been a major source of pride for the drama department, the school and the Holy Cross community.

“I don’t know of any other [school] that has something this specific and this focused on a grade-school level,” said Carney. “Holy Cross has a connection with its parishioners, and this [tech program] is just one way.

“As a community, we can’t exist — and I don’t think any Catholic school can exist — without the support of the parish.”

“Patrick has given so much,” continued Carney. “He’s given equipment; he’s given his time; and he’s given his expertise and doesn’t want anything in return.

“Finally, we decided we should have all the kids say thank you, so all the kids wrote thank-you notes to him. We couldn’t do it without him.”

“Just reading 200 thank-you letters was tear-jerking,” said Komlofske. “Down the road, my payment will be [those students] doing the same things for another group of kids — maybe not sound, but whatever their ministries are.

“That’s my goal: My payment will be when they pay it forward.”

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