Misa’s Fugue Celebrates Ten Years

Posted on January 14, 2022 by


Misa’s Fugue is celebrating ten years in 2022 and was commemorated at The Goggle Works with a screening and Q & A session this past November as a part of the Violins of Hope exhibit.

Misa’s Fugue is a 2012 documentary about the life of Holocaust survivor Frank “Misa” Grunwald. The film was directed by Communications teacher and filmmaker Sean D. Gaston and 19-year social studies teacher Jennifer Goss. English teacher Zachary Houp was also involved in the screenwriting process. The film was produced in 22 months with the help of talented students and faculty members at Fleetwood Area High School.

Gaston, a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow, met Frank Grunwald at a Holocaust conference in Indianapolis that was run through the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Grunwald was a speaker at the conference and Gaston, fairly new to Fleetwood Area High School at the time, got the idea to work with students and staff to create a documentary film on Grunwald and his family’s story.

Goss, also a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow, and a former Fleetwood staff member, met Grunwald in 2010 when she and Gaston went to his Indianapolis home to begin filming. She and Gaston collected dozens of hours of Grunwald telling his story, and Fleetwood students transcribed all of it.

“It didn’t take me long to realize the vast amount of talent that surrounded me, from the students to my fellow faculty members.  Each one of them had a set of special skills that I didn’t have, but what I did have was a vision to harness all of that talent into a documentary film project,”  Gaston said.

Art is an essential element in the storytelling of the film. Almost everything, from the score to the paintings, was done by Fleetwood students. Visual art was created under former art teacher Mrs. Diane Chisdak. 

“I was very proud to have had the art department involved in the project,” Chisdak said.

Frank Grunwald’s own art is also included in the film. A portrait of him as a young boy and a large clay sculpture of his mother are featured.

“The students were the creative force behind it. The art is very appropriate and fitting. So is the music. It supports the film in every way,” Grunwald said.

Originally a small project with the intention of reaching local schools to extend Holocaust curriculums, Misa’s Fugue exceeded all expectations of its creators. 

“It was the experience of a lifetime! I had a lot of fun and learned a lot as well. Now I’m just waiting for Gaston to announce our next film project!” Houp said.

Misa’s Fugue won five Telly Awards, all in the two highest award categories. It won the Silver Award for People’s Choice and Education and Production, as well as the Bronze Award for Art Direction and Historical and Biographical categories. The film also went on to be nominated for two Emmy Awards in documentary and writing categories. Misa’s Fugue has been seen in over 40 countries.

To celebrate a decade of success, in addition to the Violins of Hope exhibit, The Goggle Works held a screening of Misa’s Fugue for one evening on 7 November 2021. Gaston and Goss were in attendance and answered questions from the full theatre of people when the film had ended.

While Misa’s Fugue itself is an important educational piece, the creation of the film also formed and strengthened friendships amongst its collaborators. When asked about the most valuable thing that she took away from the project, Goss said that it has been the relationships and opportunities that she has gained over ten years.

“The film was highly collaborative,” Goss said.

“I think ‘collaboration’ and ‘enthusiasm’ are the two keywords. The student’s and Sean’s/Jen’s enthusiasm drove it,” Grunwald said.

All in all, Misa’s Fugue is a very successful project and valuable teaching tool that wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the people who came together and donated their time and talent to create it.

Posted in: Meghan Emery