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2022 review: New and returning choirs

The 2022 show choir season saw many new choirs hit the competition scene. Much of the growth was concentrated in the fast-growing Texas scene, but several other choirs from other areas made their debuts or returned after an extended time away from the competitive circuit. Here are their stories.

Bay Port (WI): A campaign from students who had been in show choir at a feeder middle school led to the creation of Pandemonious before the 2021-22 school year. The group boasted a little under 20 members and made its sole appearance of its debut season at Green Bay Southwest, where it placed second in the prep division and was fifth in the championship finals. The group will compete in at least two competitions in 2023.

Bloomfield (NE): Counting just over 100 students, Bloomfield is one addition to a strong core of Nebraska small-school choirs. Competing at Northeast Community College, the group placed fourth. It bested a number of stalwart groups, including Elk Point-Jefferson, Wilber-Clatonia, Elkhorn Valley, and Centennial in the process.

Blue Valley (KS): When longtime director Sam Dollins left Atchison High School, many wondered what would be next for show choir in Kansas. The immediate answer, at least concerning Dollins, was to build the best show choir Kansas has seen since Wichita Flight. Dollins took over three noncompetitive show choirs at Blue Valley and gave them the ringer in 2022. The mixed group, BV Singers, responded admirably, making finals at Missouri staples Pleasant Hill and Harrisonville and claiming a podium finish at Lincoln Northeast, a competition geared towards smaller and emerging programs. The program also fought through a snow postponement to host a conventional-style show choir competition in Kansas, which attracted numerous mainstream choirs.

Burleson (TX): Burleson is actually a school with a long history in show choir, as a group from the school called “Texas Showdown” competed at Showstoppers Chicago in 1992. Former Arlington director Lauren Padilla took a 21st-century version of the group, called “Breakaway”, to the Keller Central Lone Star Invitational this year, where they missed out on a loaded finals that included only three Texas choirs. The group will look to make waves in 2023 as it competes in all four show choir competitions held in Texas.

Clinton (IA): River Royalty entered two competitions, Anamosa and Bettendorf, and also participated in IHSMA states, where they received an excellent rating. The group did not make finals at either of its competitions, and since it is a larger school, was stuck competing in Iowa’s top 4A division. In 2023, the group will compete at Muscatine, Anamosa and Davenport Central.

Cristo Rey Fort Worth (TX): The Gamma Rays were among the initial entrants for Fort Worth Southwest, and they also appeared on the schedule for the postponed date, this time under the name Blazin’ Blue. The group did not place in a stacked division that only awarded three places.

East View (TX): Hailing from the same city as a fellow 2022 newcomer, Georgetown, East View inconspicuously appeared on the Rouse schedule. Led by Iowa native Morgan Kramer, Glee grabbed the sixth and last finals spot after the preliminary competition. While it did not improve that placing at all, it is still a significant feat to make finals in the first competition appearance for East View. With a director change, East View’s calendar for this year does not include any show choir competitions.

Elkhorn North (NE): In a different world, Elkhorn North debuts in a normal 2021 competition season with former Elkhorn director Rachel Simmons at the helm. Instead, recent Nebraska graduate Casey Allen led adrENaline through its first competition season, which included making finals at four of its five competition stops. In a twist of fate, Elkhorn North placed higher than Elkhorn at multiple competitions in 2022, setting the foundation for many years of competition between Elkhorn, Elkhorn North, and Elkhorn South.

Fairbury (NE): Fairbury is a school with a storied show choir history, competing in the Lincoln and Grand Island circuits for a time and finding success in the early 2010s before its last competitive season in 2016. Crimson Elite returned to the performance scene as a womens group in 2022. After performing at Midland University in a noncompetitive capacity in February, the group competed at Fillmore Central in March, where it did not win and as such did not place.

Fossil Ridge (TX): Of the many Texas groups entering the competitive show choir circuit in 2022, Pantheon was perhaps the most heralded. It hails from the Keller Independent School District, home of vaunted choirs from Keller, Keller Central and Timber Creek. Additionally, director Carlos Saenz brought in noted consultant Jen Randall on show design and enlisted the services of nationally-known Steph Hyatt for choreography. With 23 performers on stage, the group took on three Texas competitions. While they didn’t place in any, if finals had been held at Fort Worth Southwest, they would’ve had a fighting chance.

Frederick (MD): Hailing from Sheetz country northwest of America’s capital, High Fidelity went to the closest competition, the Martinsburg (WV) American Classic. Competing in the small mixed division, Frederick placed third of four groups, coming out ahead of longtime West Virginia competitor South Harrison. High Fidelity does exist for the 2022-23 school year, but its competition schedule is unknown.

Georgetown (TX): Boasting nearly 2,000 enrolled students, Georgetown was originally supposed to debut in 2020, when it was on the schedule for Rouse. When that competition was cancelled, it merely delayed the group’s coming-out party. The group placed fifth in prelims and held that spot in finals. Encore also claimed the STAR award as a caption at that competition. Despite a lack of a public calendar, it would be surprising if Georgetown did not return to defend its finals placing at Rouse in 2023.

Glen Allen (VA): Vocal Eclipse emerged from suburban Richmond with a circus-themed show for 2022. Former Mills E. Godwin director Sherri Matthews directed the group in its first two competition entries, which netted a fifth in small mixed at Manchester and a second in small mixed at Mechanicsville/Hanover. The latter also was a middle placing in the division, with the freshman group beating Patrick Henry. Glen Allen is slated to host a show choir clinic on Feb. 18, 2023, but their competition schedule is unknown.

Hebron (TX): While Harmony had been a noncompetitive group for a while, former Keller director Alex Carr came into the program in 2020 and elevated the group to a competitive one after the COVID-19 pandemic. Competing at a Legacy competition that only awards three places, Harmony did not podium but did take home a caption award for Best Female Soloist, which is definitely something to write home about in a crowded ten-choir division.

Leander (TX): Without a global pandemic, Leander lands itself on the list of 2020 debuts, having signed up for Rouse before that event was cancelled. Two years later, Legacy did make it to their crosstown neighbor’s competition, where they did not make the finals round. The group has plans to compete at Rouse in 2023.

Leominster (MA): Ignition had previously performed at the Oliver Ames Baystate Festival, but 2022 marked the group’s first competition season. Competing in New England’s small mixed division, the highlight of its season was a silver medal at Tantasqua. Ignition also competed at Andover, Bishop Hendricken, and Waltham. After competing in four competitions last spring, the group looks to be returning, and will remain under the tutelage of longtime director Arthur Pierce.

Minden (NE): Amethyst was a regular competitor at the now-defunct University of Nebraska-Omaha festival. Cue a new director, Hugo Madera, and the group ventured to new venues at Northeast Community College and Fillmore Central. The group placed third of five in the middle tier at Northeast and did not place at Fillmore, who only announces a winner.

Montgomery Central (TN): Hailing from northern Tennessee, Sound Collective found itself isolated geographically. Despite it having a local competition a mere 75 minutes away at Donelson Christian, the group attended South Dearborn and Sheridan in Indiana and Ohio, respectively. While it was director Angela Rouse’s first go-around in competitive show choir, Sound Collective was choreographed by veteran choreographer Dallas James Pritt in 2022. One Indiana-based choreographer who saw their show tells Barstool that “they had a very rich, full vocal sound… they have potential if they choose to pursue a competitive emphasis.” It appears that they will in 2023, with appearances at Avon and Shelbyville lined up.

Natick (MA): Originally planning to debut in 2021, Natick is defined by the sister combo that leads it – Kate Burns as director and Tori Brindis as choreographer. West Street Singers debuted late in 2022, even by New England standards, not competing until mid-March. Natick put everybody on notice in its debut at Andover, taking the small mixed win over Bishop Hendricken and Lowell. At Waltham, the group took it a step further, winning small mixed captions in vocals, choreography and show design and earning a gold medal. The result was another blue ribbon, again coming over Bishop Hendricken and Lowell. In 2023, Natick will compete at Andover and Bishop Hendricken.

Notre Dame (BC): Some longtime show choir observers may remember Notre Dame from their appearance at John Burroughs in 2014, where Dynamo competed in advanced mixed and did not place in a division that featured Hart, Bonita Vista and Mt. Eden as the top three groups. The school burst back on to the scene, entering three groups in this year’s virtual edition of the Show Choir Canada Championships. Its groups took second and third in the large high school category, and third in the small choir category.

Pueblo West (CO): Pueblo West debuted in 2022 at the Colorado State Show Choir Festival, one of two mainstream show choir competitions in that state. The group earned a “good” rating and was not one of the top three groups at the competition.

Sioux Falls Jefferson (SD): Along with Waukee Northwest and perhaps Natick, Jefferson was one of the most heralded debut groups heading into the 2022 season. Sioux Falls Roosevelt assistant director John Parezo came over to take the reins, and it stepped into a South Dakota scene that could use another major player or two. The varsity group, Legacy, progressed throughout the year. A sixth-place finish at its debut competition eventually turned into two wins at the end of the season, highlighted by knocking off crosstown Sioux Falls Washington at Aberdeen and sweeping the three major captions at Hinton. Additionally, the school fielded a womens group, Revelry, in its first year, which is no small feat.

Thompson (AL): One of the more anonymous debuts of the 2022 season, Thompson’s program emerged seemingly out of nowhere. The group did not have a public name or director, and performed in exhibition in two of its three event appearances. In its one head-to-head matchup, it lost to Eufala in a Tier 6 division at Tallassee.

Torrance South (CA): With a picture-perfect school that is located quite literally on the Pacific Coast Highway south of Los Angeles, one can only hope that Torrance South brought breezy vibes when it debuted at SCVA. Crescendos competed in the small mixed division, and garnered third place in that division. The group will return in 2023, but it is unknown if it will be in a competitive format.

Valencia (CA): In a California arts scene that finds itself still emerging from the pandemic, Valencia made its debut at SCVA in May. Competing in the lowest mixed division, it took home second place and an award for best soloist in the division. The show choir does exist this school year, but no competitions are listed on its calendar.

Waukee Northwest (IA): In one of the most high-profile debuts of the season, Waukee Northwest did not disappoint. The school was built due to overpopulation at Waukee High School, a perennial power player in the Des Moines and Iowa show choir circuits. There may have been some questions coming into the season concerning the usual bugs that first-time groups go through, but those were immediately dispelled when its varsity group, Eos, placed second at Ankeny Centennial. The group it lost to? Linn-Mar. Groups it beat? Millard North, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, and Indianola, just to name a few. Director Jack Daubitz deserves a ton of credit, as well as choreographers Lexi Robson and Nick Quamme. Eos never placed below third all season and won its final competition of the year, taking vocals and choreography captions at Vermillion. 2022 surely set the foundation for a long and prosperous program at Iowa's newest school.

Multiple groups are slated to debut in 2023, including Lincoln Northwest (NE), Southlake Carroll (TX), and Drummond (WI). Check back next year for a similar column!

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