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The Ins and Outs of Vivace
An in-depth look at the Vivace show choir
February 20, 2017
How do you want to be remembered? That is the question that the show choir members ask with their show this year. The Flightline takes a look at the how this group has made themselves known.
Show Choir’s Unrecognized Heroes
Though often overlooked, band and crew make Vivace possible
Show choir dazzles. It’s nearly impossible to tear one’s eyes away from the performers as they go through their show; glittery dresses, intricate dance moves, and gorgeous harmonies ensure that the show grabs its viewers’ attention from the first note.
However, there is far more to a Skutt Catholic show choir production than the glitz and glamour that meets the eyes. During every performance, members of show choir band and crew work to make the show run smoothly and effectively. Though they may not be visible for most of the performance, they are truly the unrecognized heroes of Vivace.
The show choir’s band consists of nine members playing everything from the synthesizer to the cello. The band attends every competition and many of the rehearsals, so members end up dedicating quite a bit of time to the show. “It’s a lot of work,” says sophomore Erica Neesen, who plays guitar. “I hate learning the sheet music for it. But it’s so fun to perform that the hard work really pays off.”
Unfortunately, quite a few band members graduated in 2016. In fact, “There is only one band member that was in the band last year,” says Vivace Director Chris Storm. “It’s almost a completely new ensemble.” However, the Vivace band is excelling, despite its inexperience; it was named the fourth best band at a competition in Wisconsin that included 21 show choirs. Storm says, “We’re still working to be better, but we’re definitely headed in the right direction.”
However, Vivace band oftentimes doesn’t get enough credit, as junior synthesizer player Jack Duff pointed out. According to Duff, “A lot of times, show choir band doesn’t get much recognition.” The lack of appreciation for the band’s efforts can be disheartening, but band members, including junior cello and bass player Mikey Figura, seem to truly enjoy the activity regardless of recognition. “You get to know the people in show choir so well,” he says, “And you grow into a family.”
Its band isn’t the only group helping Vivace out behind the scenes. Show choir crew, like stage crew in theatre, helps to make sure the technical aspects of show choir run smoothly. There are currently six members of show choir crew; their jobs include, among other things, assisting the performers with costume changes, helping with the setup of various equipment, and making sure costumes and other aspects of the performance are where they need to be when they need to be there.
Crew can be a good fit for students who want to participate in Vivace but didn’t make the cut during auditions or prefer to work behind the scenes. “I got involved in crew because I’ve always enjoyed music, but I’ve never liked being on stage,” says senior crew member Alec Brown. “I also have many friends in show choir, so that makes it all the better.”
There are a lot more contributors to Vivace’s performance than one may think. If you are ever sitting in the audience during a performance, stunned at the fast-paced singing and dancing, don’t forget to remember, recognize, and appreciate the less visible members who make it all possible.
A Trip for Improvements and Achievements
Vivace makes its first tour to Wisconsin with astounding results
After several months of planning, preparation, and fundraising, Skutt Catholic’s show choir got to see what it was made of against nationally ranked choirs. Not only did the show choir get to compete, but it also met with other directors for workshops to make the best of its trip.
After raising money throughout their season, Vivace members were able to make it on a four day trip to Wisconsin. They started the trip with a mass performed by Fr. Harrison at 5:45 a.m. – quite the wake up the call. After a quick mass, the group set out to load everything onto the bus and head out for its first stop: Drake University.
At Drake, the chamber choir got to meet with choral director Dr. Aimee Beckman-Collier, or Dr. ABC for short. She went over the choir’s show and gave its the singers valuable advice that put them on the path to success.
Their next stop was at Prairie View Middle School in Waukee, Iowa, where the show choir performed for eighth graders and received criticisms from Mr. Matt Huth. Huth is the choral director at the middle school. He looked over how the choreography worked with the vocals and made sure that everything matched up. The group had fun, and its show was improved by the coaching.
Vivace then made its way to Iowa Western in Iowa City to meet up with Iowa Western’s show choir department. All four groups performed their shows, including Iowa Western’s all women’s group, its prep group (the show choir equivalent to J.V.), its varsity group Good Time Company, and as the finale Skutt Catholic’s very own Vivace. All of the participants cheered each other on and made new friendships that now span states. After all of this, it was time for another drive to the show choir’s first hotel in Illinois and off to bed to get ready for the next day.
Vivace started off Friday by eating a wholesome hotel breakfast and heading out for Moline to perform for the Classics. The Classics, in turn, showed off their very own red riding hood themed show. Afterwards, the whole group had lunch and met new people.
Next, Vivace went to the first set of competitions that it would be attending: the chamber choir competition. This competition had three choirs participating. Skutt Catholic’s chamber choir won first runner up and best bass and tenor sections with the songs “Testimony” and “I Thank You God.” The performance was quite moving.
The next day was the competition day. Fort Atkinson was putting up some good competition with nationally ranked choirs. Despite this, Vivace still made finals and made the trip worth it. The top six open (open being Vivace’s class) groups make it into finals. Vivace finished in seventh place after prelims, but since it was behind a group that wasn’t in the open class, it barely made finals. However, there was a big change made during finals; the group had changed its spot from from seventh to fifth with one memorable performance.
None of this could have happened if Vivace hadn’t put in the work to get there. Not only did the Vivace members have to put in countless hours of practice, but they also had to raise a lot of money to ensure that they could make the trip. Fundraising is a large part of show choir, despite what it may look like on the surface. Vivace has to make up for what isn’t provided, and this takes quite the effort.
The trip was a huge opportunity to improve and was a definite payoff to all the work it took to make it there. Vivace members returned from the trip with a more positive outlook on the rest of the season, and they hope they can use the success they had in Wisconsin in the rest of their competitions.
Photo by Hannah Klemme
The Man Behind it All: Chris Storm
Skutt Catholic's Choir Director reflects on his monumental works within the choir department
What influenced you to become a high school choir director?
When I was in high school, I had great music teachers and found that music might be a career where I could work every day without it feeling like work. I continued to have energetic and enthusiastic teachers at South Dakota State University who continued to push me to be a great musician and transformed me to the teacher that I am. Hopefully I have a positive impact on the students that I serve each day, beyond making great music in all of our ensembles.
What steps did you take to become a choir director?
There is a lot of training that goes into the education side of choral music, but beyond classes and teaching experiences, I took on a church choir right out of high school. This was some of the most valuable time I could have spent because I was getting real-world experience while just starting college. I was quickly finding out what I didn’t know and what I wanted to learn more about. My Bachelors of Music Education degree took four and a half years to complete and, once I graduated mid-year, I became a music substitute teacher in Sioux Falls and gained even more valuable experience.
Why did you choose Skutt Catholic?
Honestly, I think that God chose Skutt Catholic for me. I had resigned my position at Bishop Heelan in Sioux City and had been looking for the right job in the Omaha area for almost a year. As we got into June of 2009, I had given up hope that I would find the right place to be. That same day, I got an email from the choir director at UNO about this position and wondering if I knew of anyone who might be interested. Within minutes I had my application in to Mr. Slattery, and I interviewed and was hired just a few days later. This has been a great place to build a choir program and to have a great community of supportive parents and families.
What has been your biggest achievement since you started teaching here?
I think the biggest achievement has come from seeing the choir program grow from one choir of 21 students to a three-choir program with over 100 students involved in one or more of the groups. Seeing students commit to being in one of our concert choirs is a great achievement because they don’t receive the same recognition or visibility that the show choir gets, but they truly are the backbone of what makes the show choir what they are.
What did it take to grow the program to the size and caliber it is today?
It has really taken a lot of students trying out singing for the first time and seeing that they enjoy it. It may not always be the “cool” thing to do, but I think that once our students see and feel the camaraderie in the ensembles, they know that choir is about more than making music. We had a couple of really great years of growth where we even had more guys than girls involved. There is always a drive within me to share the love of singing with more and more students, and I try to foster that accepting environment within the music room. Everyone has the ability to sing, and I take as much satisfaction in having a student learn to match pitch as I do when a soloist or ensemble receives an award.
What kind of a message do you like to portray through your choirs?
The Skutt Catholic choirs are inclusive, and everyone plays an equal role in what we do. There is no first or second string in music – no one sits the bench. Everyone is actively involved in the music we make and the performances we have. I like students to know that they are accepted in the ensemble no matter what their background, what sports they do or do not play, and what other activities they are involved in. Choir is a place where everyone can be themselves and at the same time be a part of something so much bigger than themselves. We plan eclectic concerts with lots of different music each time, which challenges our singers to learn foreign pronunciations, mixed rhythms, and self expression through singing.
Do you have any plans for ways the program could grow further in the future?
I am really happy with the current setup of the choir program. I love having two concert choirs where anyone who wants to sing can be a part of Concert Choir and others who are interested in a bigger challenge can audition for the Chamber Choir. The singular show choir is the way that I want us to go as it is not overwhelming from a leadership and financial standpoint, but it offers many students the opportunity to experience a competitive ensemble. The future growth I would love to see in the program would be for the non-auditioned Concert Choir to continue to grow, and, if there is demand, even be able to start a third choir, maybe focused solely on women’s music. In order for that to happen we need to continue to have stable and sustainable growth within the program and for all students who enter the Skutt Catholic community to know that choir is more than just singing at Mass – in fact, singing at Mass is all voluntary.
With the grueling work that goes with your job title, what makes it all worth it for you?
During the long weeks, especially at this time of year when we are competing with Vivace and preparing for multiple concerts at once with Chamber Choir and Concert Choir, I can easily put in 80 hours a week. My wife and kids know that is the job that I have and they accept it. What makes the extra time worth it is having moments of re-fueling of the soul. I can have a hard day and feel like I’m never going to get my head above water, and then Concert Choir can come in after lunch and have a spectacular rehearsal, and it just re-charges me and lets me know that, even if I feel behind, the singers “get it” and are making great music. I have been really happy with the development of the choirs this year and look forward to even bigger and better things in the not-too-distant future.