I am just beginning my term as the Show Choir R&S for the state of Nebraska, and couldn’t be more excited for the talent and growth I have seen across this state during my past six years here. I grew up in South Dakota and was never involved in a show choir because that was not something my school offered – I actually knew nothing about it until the summer before my student teaching. After just a few days of camp with the First Edition singers from Sioux Falls Washington high school, I was hooked. To see students eager to work on building great singing technique while working on popular music was inspiring to me. Those were the same kids who filled the seats of their school’s Concert and Chamber choirs. During the day they rehearsed Handel, Haydn and Brahms to perform at their school Holiday concert, before breaking into staged and choreographed show choir performances of Merry Christmas Past and We Need A Little Christmas. I realized that this was another way to get singers involved and excited about music. I was a way to meet them at their level and raise the bar.
I began my teaching career in South Dakota and have since taught seven years in Iowa and I am now entering year seven at Skutt Catholic in Omaha. This marks year number 15 overall. I have had the pleasure of working with show choirs for my entire career, in fact, I started at least one show choir at each school in which I have taught. I know that getting kids actively involved in something they see as “fun” allows me the opportunity to bring them into the concert and chamber choirs. And it has been fun to lead and watch them grow in their vocal ability.
We are nearing the end of the summer and it seems that it is time to start up with music camps at school. I see my peers hosting show choir camps to learn their choreography. Others are holding All State camps to work on that music. Many are doing both, and even more! It is the time of year everything can seem overwhelming. Show choir directors are cautiously selecting music, deciding on festivals and competitions, and maybe even choosing new costumes. I want our younger teachers to know that after 15 years, it is a little easier, but it is still overwhelming. I also want you to know that there is a great network of directors in this state who are always willing to help and are only a phone call or an email away. Some of us will even travel a little ways for a cup of coffee and a chance to bounce ideas off of others. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions.
As you finalize your year, please know this – my best years have been the years that I tried hard to keep myself out of the picture. My ensembles knew that it was always about them. The years that I could get them to focus goals on anything but a trophy were definitely the most satisfying. When they knew that the music I selected was not only based on what they could sing well, but also what they could emotionally connect to, they performed better. When they knew that the costumes that were selected were chosen so that every girl could feel beautiful and every guy handsome, they performed better. And they grew into a stronger ensemble because of it. Help your students grow into a strong ensemble this year and thank you for allowing me to serve you!