East Aurora High School Students 8th in the Nation at History Fair

East Aurora High School Students 8th in the Nation at History Fair

Three East Aurora High School history students finished in the top 10 at the National History Day competition held last week at the University of Maryland. The documentary about musician Muddy Waters and the Chicago Blues created by Oscar Miranda, Brian Strand and Erik Strand was a national finalist and earned eighth place overall.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 4.25.14 PMFrom thousands of entries, the East Aurora project was one of just 98 that advanced in the group documentary category to the National History Day competition. Those documentaries were narrowed down to 14 national finalists, who then showed their documentaries to a panel of judges. Thursday morning, the East Aurora team was notified that they had finished eighth. It is the first time in recent history that an East Aurora team has been a national finalist.

Miranda and Brian Strand will be juniors next year. Erik Strand will be a senior next year. Erik and Brian are brothers.

The recognition is a culmination of months of work by the students. The team began working on the documentary in September. The national theme for this year was “Leadership and Legacy”. Because of their shared love of music and Chicago’s key role in the genre, the Tomcats had an idea they wanted to research the blues.

“From the beginning, we just kept telling each other we were going to make it nationals,” Miranda said. “Once we finished the first two sections (of the documentary), we knew we had something to work with.”

The team originally intended to focus on Chicago blues in general, but their research kept pointing them to one pivotal figure.

“Everything you research comes back to Muddy Waters in one way or another,” said Erik Strand.

The students gathered materials, traveled to Chicago to interview musicians, recorded narrations and edited together a video project that explored Waters’ background and legacy. The goal was to put him in a larger historical context to help people understand the impact he had on society, which included inspiring the name of one legendary rock group. The Tomcats’ final product, a 10-minute documentary, can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/nl7iBJOjEKE

Brian Strand said the experience of traveling to the National History Day competition was inspiring. He knew almost nothing about Waters prior to the research and now he sees his influence in many areas.

“It’s opened up a new horizon for me,” Brian Strand said. “It was interesting to see how brilliant kids are and it’s definitely given me a new drive for all my academic work.”

The students were thrilled with their top-10 finish and they have set a goal to return to the national competition again next year.

SOURCE: East Aurora School District press release