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2023 Debuts: Part 2

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

Time to keep going with recognizing the show choir community's newest members! From the East Coast to the West Coast, catch up on how eight of these choirs did in their debut seasons.

Pass Christian (MS) “Luminary”

Former Oak Grove Middle School assistant director and freelance arranger Garret Clement was at the head of getting Luminary off the ground. Just down the Gulf coast from Biloxi, Pass Christian is a midsize high school with around 700 students and brought in regional stud Christopher Brewer and rising star Patrick Sullivan, along with Rachel Williamson, to choreograph the inaugural show. Competing in Mississippi’s small mixed division, the group started off hot, coming in second at Purvis and fourth in division at South Jones in January. A string of tough competitions saw the rookie choir go without placing for the rest of the season, but they still emerged as one to watch for the years to come. Everyone on the leadership team is back for 2024, which will see the group do early-season clinics at Oak Grove and Northwest Rankin before competing at South Jones, Mississippi State, Petal, Oak Grove and Biloxi.

Dell Rapids (SD) “Espresso Choir”

Outside of the heavy hitters (Mitchell, the four Sioux Falls schools and Aberdeen Central), South Dakota has a decent small-school scene that always seems to be a little bit in flux, whether it be groups starting, folding or returning. One of 2023’s stories was the addition of Dell Rapids, a town of 4,000 people about a half hour north of Sioux Falls. Espresso Choir previously served as Dell Rapids’ chamber ensemble, but the group broke out to the world of show choir this past year. They were the only choir in small mixed to start off their journey at Sioux Falls Roosevelt and didn’t place in a staggering seven-choir small mixed division at Sioux Falls Washington. Taking a journey to South Dakota’s southernmost reaches to end their competition season, Espresso Choir finally nabbed a placing, taking third in division at Vermillion. Information is light on Dell Rapids’ plans for 2024, but appearances at the smaller South Dakota or northern Iowa competitions wouldn’t come as a total shock.

Yazoo County (MS) “Pride”

Yazoo County, located north of the Jackson show choir belt, had a noncompetitive show choir in 2022. They debuted competitively at South Jones in late January, taking fifth place in a small mixed division that included stalwarts West Marion, Columbia Academy and Wayne County. That was all for Pride’s first season hitting the competition stage. There are no public plans in place right now for Yazoo County to compete in 2024, but a logical next step would be to take the plunge into one or two Jackson-area competitions.

Omaha Buena Vista (NE) “Show Choir”

Similar to the population boom that has engulfed Lincoln, Nebraska, the state’s largest city is also growing and its school footprint is expanding accordingly. Located in south Omaha, just a couple miles from longtime show choir schools Ralston and Papillion-La Vista, Buena Vista opened to 9th and 10th grade students in fall 2022 and immediately got the show choir program started. Marcella Dunn, who previously held positions in the Omaha, Glenwood and Lewis Central school districts, led the effort as director. Competing at nearby Omaha South, the group did not place in a prep division that only announced results for the top two groups. While any future plans for the group aren’t known, it would seem fitting for the group to grow with the school as it opens to more grades each year.

Monterey (CA) “Big Song & Dance”

Monterey, California is south of the San Francisco Bay area, a long ways away from the traditional southern California area where show choir is most popular. Big Song & Dance, directed by Charles Fleming, made the trip down to Burbank for the John Burroughs Music Showcase, where they were fourth in the novice mixed division. The show choir had been a part of the vocal music department before debuting at Burroughs, so even if it does not compete again, the legacy of Big Song & Dance will likely continue.

Dana Hills (CA) “Golden Lantern Show Choir”

Dana Hills, in comparison to Monterey, is much closer to the epicenter of California show choir activity. Their show choir was fielded in conjunction with the South Orange County School of the Arts, and competed at the Southern California Vocal Association Spectacular in May. Entered in a two-choir womens division, they took the win and both major captions (music and show) over Eisenhower’s Ikettes. The SCVA cast seems to rotate year-over-year, so it will be a wait-and-see game to see if Dana Hills is back in 2024.

Torrance North (CA) “Hi-Lite”

Just southwest of Compton in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, Torrance North’s genesis came this past season at the Southern California Vocal Association Spectacular, similar to Dana Hills. It is part of a district legacy in the city, as Torrance High had a show choir in the early 2000s and Torrance South’s Crescendos did a one-off appearance at SCVA in 2022. Directed by Keiko Clark, Hi-Lite competed in the novice mixed division. They were second of three groups in the division, coming in behind Riverside Polytechnic but ahead of Ramona. A school website page lists show choir as a class for the upcoming school year, so they may return to the competitive scene.

South Granville (NC) “Shades of Blue” and “Chord on Blues”

Jenny Hobgood, who was largely responsible for Voyager Academy’s success inside and outside of North Carolina from 2013 to 2020, jumped ship to South Granville in fall 2021. While a show choir program did not immediately follow, she got not one but two groups for the North Carolina State Show Choir Contest in 2023 – the mixed group Shades of Blue and the women’s group Chord on Blues. Chord on Blues actually outplaced Shades of Blue at state, as the groups came in fourth and fifth place, respectively. Both groups are already registered for states in 2024, looking to set their sights on the North Carolina Big Three of Voyager, Hough and Lake Norman.

The final installment of the debuts series will be coming soon, so be on the lookout for that!

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