This is part of a series of articles and related content on music at AHS prepared last spring by members of the Newspaper Production class: Haley Brenner, Maggie Graw, Nina McKone, and Leah Parrott.
By Nina McKone
A show choir member knows how a simple conversation can turn into a full-on interrogation in a matter of seconds. Ten seconds ago someone asked, What are you doing after school? Five seconds later you reply, Oh, I have a show choir rehearsal. Two seconds of reaction time, and your peer’s face is plastered with innocent confusion. You brace yourself for a variant of the question you’ve been asked a thousand times before, readying a gracious laugh in response for the sake of being polite:
“Show choir … that’s like Glee, right?”
Notions like these are a common theme among AHS students and faculty not directly involved with show choir, where all they know are the lights, costumes, synchronized dance moves, and harmonized voices onstage. Junior Katie Nam, a show choir member, described the extracurricular as “the best of both worlds, meaning that it trains you vocally and physically.”
With that being said, the TV show Glee was broadcast from 2009 to 2015. It was a drama where a chorus of diverse teenagers performed songs in an after-school club at their high school. From the audience, it’s easy to draw comparisons between the popular music-based TV series and our own singing groups at school. Mr. Desjardins, coordinator of choral activity at AHS, said that an obvious similarity between show choir and Glee is the heavy reliance on dance to help represent the music. He added, “Stylistically as well, the music follows the same [approach] as Glee with modernizing of pieces–updating, if you will–for the new generation.”
While these assumptions about show choir may not do any direct harm, relating show choir to “glee club” gives it a name that does not satisfy it fully. The six hours a week spent rehearsing, the national competitions the students attend, and other duties that come with the responsibility of a singer are not fully accounted for. Additionally, the extent to which show choir positively influences the school is not justified, nor is the overwhelming talent within the groups. The music that show choir produces relates to the struggles of high school life, finding a unique way to communicate with their audience through harmonization and dance.
“I’m always a believer in the transformative power of music,” Desjardins said. “In a climate where people don’t really talk about things, people have a hard time finding words to describe things they are going through, sometimes music is that medium that allows for that expression.” In this way, show choir is not only a form of entertainment, but a means of representation for students who feel misunderstood, disconnected, or simply want to grow closer to their high school.
Even with the arts providing a useful tool of intellectuality and expression for students both performing and watching, show choir performances are often cast aside for other school-wide events at AHS. “It’s definitely hard being an arts kid in a sports-oriented town and school,” said freshman Gio Coppola. “We don’t get as much funding as we need and should get, but we make do.”
A possible reason that show choir is not consistently supported by the student body at performances might be for social reasons. Going to a concert and displaying theatre etiquette is a much less social event than, say, attending a basketball game in the Dunn Gym. Mr. Desjardins summarized this idea perfectly, “I think it’s one of those things in this community where people know it exists, but people still don’t necessarily know what it is or how it operates.” Coppola recommended the best way to diminish the issue of uncertainty–show choir doesn’t have to be a mystery to the student body–simply attend a concert and see what it’s all about! He said, “Seeing a live performance has so much value, and can give you insight on where all of our hard work goes.”
Another factor outsiders don’t take into account are the physical and mental challenges leading up to a performance that show choir members endure. These physical factors are often underappreciated by those not involved with the show groups, as described by sophomore Chloe Hanrahan: “We work extremely hard; most people don’t think show choir is a sport and that’s fine, but you can’t say it’s not hard work.”
With that being said, show choir still does include many physical components involved with being a part of a sports team: “We do conditioning, which includes ab workouts, running, warm-ups, stretches, [and] strength training,” Hanrahan informed. “People forget that we sing and dance for thirty minutes straight without breaks–you kind of need a strong core for that.”
Even with the hard work and positive vibes within the show choir community, there have been times when its reputation has felt more negative than it should be. Hanrahan mentioned how for awhile, show choir had a reputation for being “drama-filled” due to the competitive nature of the extracurricular. Even so, those rumors are not how show choir should be characterized. “I have people in that program that are like protective older brothers, people that are like sisters who I share everything with, [and] people who are the moms of our group,” said Hanrahan, who related the group to one big clan. “Show Choir is a family, and there is a role for everyone.”
And what’s the most important aspect of show choir, and the kind of mentality they present to the school? Nam concluded with this: “What we are looking for performers who don’t need to be perfect technically, but can rise up from their mistakes and own the stage!”