By Way of the North Pole, Music Education Major Finds Home at Black Hills State University

Bottom row, second from right, Katherine Carstensen-Zerbst sings with the Northern Hills Chamber Chorale at Black Hills State University. The music education major from North Pole, Alaska says her favorite Christmas song is “Up on The Housetop.” Photo:BHSU

By Kimberly Talcott
December 19, 2016

SPEARFISH –  Here’s three hints to guess the hometown of Black Hills State University student Katherine Carstensen-Zerbst: The weather is frightful, the town has candy cane light poles up 365 days a year, and its most famous resident is especially jolly. That’s right, Katherine is from North Pole, Alaska.

Hailing from the North Pole, Katherine Carstensen-Zerbst, music education major, says the music department at Black Hills State University is like a family to her, even though she’s nearly 3,000 miles from home. Photo:BHSU

A vocalist and music education major at BHSU in Spearfish, Katherine recently performed as part of “A Christmas Carol Concert” at BHSU and “Holiday Revels at Roma’s,” a music department fundraiser.

Katherine was born in Rapid City before her father’s military career settled the family in North Pole.

“People always ask if we rode polar bears to school in North Pole, but we had roads and infrastructure,” said Katherine. “Santa is there most of the year and you can pet and feed reindeer at the Santa Claus House.”

North Pole is a small town of only a couple thousand people located near Fairbanks, Alaska – the largest city in the state. The city’s webpage has a countdown to Christmas.

Children all over the world are putting the final touches on their letters to Santa via the North Pole this week. Katherine says she helped to ensure the children received responses on behalf of the big boss.

“When I was in middle school I helped reply to kids’ letters to Santa. We would read the letters and then we had a template we’d use to write them back,” said Katherine.

Finishing up her junior year at BHSU, Katherine says she is glad she followed in her parents footsteps to BHSU and that she will compete her degree at their alma mater. Both Katherine’s parents are BHSU graduates. Her mother was born in Sisseton and her father in Newcastle, Wyo. Her grandparents still live in nearby Sturgis.

Katherine hopes to be a high school choir director or a private voice instructor after finishing her degree at BHSU next year. She is active as a vocalist in the music department at BHSU.

She says her faculty and friends in the music department make her feel at home, even though the BHSU campus is nearly 3,000 miles from North Pole, Alaska.

“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made, choosing to be a music major at Black Hills State. The music faculty are awesome, they’re like a family,” said Katherine.

Katherine says she mostly enjoys singing renaissance and French music. But everyone from the North Pole must have at least one favorite Christmas song, right?

“I always push us to sing ‘Up On The Housetop’ in choir,” said Katherine.

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