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2023 Debuts: Part 1

It’s always great to celebrate the big-name choirs who win, but it’s also great to celebrate growth! After a couple years of high-profile and successful show choir debuts from urban schools like Waukee Northwest, Sioux Falls Jefferson and Elkhorn North, this year’s debuts were more inauspicious. Here’s to the first of three parts celebrating the show choir community’s newest members!

Drummond (WI) “Jack Attack”

Tucked in the sparsely-populated northwest region of Wisconsin, Drummond is a school with barely 100 students in the entire high school. They made their first chronicled appearance at a noncompetitive event in the fall of 2021 before expanding in 2023, doing that same fall festival plus appearances at New London and Altoona. While Jack Attack didn’t make finals in the varsity division at New London, they switched to the prep division, a better fit, at Altoona and came away with a third-place trophy. The group also won caption awards for sportsmanship in both its appearances in 2022! Director Nick Kuka recently secured a $10,000 donation from a local business and Jack Attack is already confirmed for an appearance at Holmen on Jan. 6 this upcoming season.

North Paulding (GA) “EnChorus”

Records of show choir at North Paulding, a school in northern exurban Atlanta, quietly appeared in 2022, with well-known choreographers Steffahn Maclin and Gabriella Mack choreographing a group that didn’t compete at all. That duo returned for 2023, as did director Selina Madison. EnChorus made its competitive debut at Albertville, a drive of about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Competing in the small mixed division, they took home the gold in its first-ever appearance! (It doesn’t really matter that they only beat one other group in division.) North Paulding will be at Albertville again in 2024 and is up in the air on going to Tift County within the Georgia state line.

Dartmouth (MA) “Dynamix”

Sam Bianco began his tenure at Somerset Berkley in the summer of 2013 after Richard Sylvia left to start a show choir program at Bishop Hendricken. It was only natural, then, that once Bianco left Somerset, he also started a program of his own. Dartmouth, Massachusetts is not where the Ivy League college is located; in fact, it’s a small coastal town mere miles from the inland Somerset. With a midsize student body of just over 1,000 students to work with, Bianco enlisted his choreographer from Somerset, Taiylor Medina, to round out the creative team. After early-season feedback at Oliver Ames’ November festival, Dynamix was seventh in small mixed at Shepherd Hill, fourth at Bishop Hendricken and didn’t place at Waltham. As a cherry on top, Dynamix was voted as HomeRoom’s Rookie Show Choir of the Year in its inaugural Show Choir Awards this past spring! Dartmouth already appeared at Oliver Ames this fall, setting the stage for another stepping stone season.

Pike Road (AL) “Patriot Show Choir”

Pike Road is a small town on the outskirts of Alabama’s capital, Montgomery. Katherine Hatfield started the show choir program after teaching in Dothan, Alabama, just outside of Enterprise. Pike Road performed at Tallassee this past year – it’s hard to say they competed, considering they were the only choir competing in the smallest division. However, things are looking up for 2024! Patriot Show Choir has been rebranded to Prestige, a middle school choir Panache was added to the program, a free arrangement from BMK Arrangements was won on Instagram and Prestige already has choreography for this upcoming season from Simbiti Wright. While they aren’t confirmed for any specific competitions in 2024, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them back at Tallassee as well at some other Alabama competitions, perhaps Auburn or Enterprise.

Lincoln Northwest (NE) “Aviation”

Nebraska is often slept on by the nationwide community, but it has one of the strongest show choir scenes in the country. Both the Lincoln and Omaha metro areas are growing rapidly, and thanks to a couple key role models (wink wink, Doran Johnson and Dr. Pete Eklund), most of the large high schools in both cities have show choirs. Northwest was the first new Lincoln high school in almost twenty years, and in its opening year, it drew heavily on open enrollment. One of the selling points was a robust arts program, including a competitive show choir. Enter Jon Marquez, who started his career in western Nebraska at Chadron, went to Riverton, Wyoming, started the show choir program in Hastings, Nebraska, and then went to grad school in Lincoln and took over Lincoln High’s show choir for a year. He immediately brought in Kevin Chase to choreograph Aviation, and interest grew even after the start of the school year. Targeting smaller and local competitions, Aviation made finals in its first-ever competition at Grand Island Northwest and also won second place in small mixed at Lincoln Northeast. Northwest will have its own competition in 2023, the Capital City Classic, on February 10 and will look to make more waves in the show choir scene this year.

Cotter (MN) “Show Choir”

Cotter is the Catholic high school in Winona, Minnesota, just up the river from the traditional show choir powerhouse area of La Crosse, Wisconsin. While show choir existed at the school for a long time in a noncompetitive format, it was only in 2023 that the group decided to take their show on the competitive stage. Director Emma Jirele eased the group into competition with a three-competition slate. They started on January 7 at Viterbo in La Crosse and also competed January 28 at La Crosse Central and traveled to the Twin Cities metro to compete at North St. Paul on February 11. This choir’s plans are totally unknown for 2024, but it would be great to see them back in any capacity, especially considering that Viterbo is no longer hosting a competition.

Triton (IN) “Trojan Singers”

While Triton previously had a swing choir that competed at Bishop Luers in 1977, we’ll call it good and say that 2023 was the debut season. Trojan Singers was an early story in the Indiana scene, competing at Jay County, the first event on the calendar in that state. They were sixth in small mixed at that competition and also performed at Columbia City in March, where they did not place in an absolutely massive eleven-choir small mixed division. This is another choir that has no definite plans for 2024, so keep your eyes peeled!

North Polk (IA) “Nexus”

North Polk is a name that should be somewhat familiar to those in the show choir world – their mid-February competition each year can draw some of the big names in Iowa. Despite that, however, it had been a decade since the school had a competitive show choir, which still only got out once a year. Enter Zach Howell. Howell had previous small-school directing experience at Belmond-Klemme, making him a perfect candidate for the rural North Polk, just up the highway from Des Moines in Alleman. Iowa fixture Grant Luther served as choreographer for Nexus this past year, and boy, did they come out kicking. A strong showing at Dallas Center-Grimes resulted in a finals appearance and a fourth-place finish, right behind western Iowa small school upstarts Des Moines Christian and Glenwood. Nexus also claimed the 3A division win at Indianola, and would’ve been in contention for a top-three finish there as well had that competition included finals. Luther has been retained as choreographer for 2024, making North Polk a prime breakout candidate for this upcoming season.

Keep your eyes peeled for more debut spotlights coming soon!

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