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'Best Lens Possible': Brownsburg Moves Forward from Nationals Scoring Error

The day after Show Choir Nationals wrapped up, the Brownsburg Spotlight Singers & Company creative team learned of a shocking scenario: preliminary scores were incorrectly tabulated and Spotlight was bumped down a spot to below the cutline for finals.

“It’s hard to put in words,” Brownsburg director Chad Strasser said. “I felt every emotion. The first was just shock, for something like that to happen. Especially at a big contest. No one did it on purpose, but it doesn’t take away the feeling like a punch in the stomach. You can’t take back another performance for my seniors.”

“It definitely is heartbreaking,” Spotlight Singers and Company Co-President Kati Smith said. “To know that our season was cut a performance short, especially for our seniors whose last show choir experience was that Friday morning performance. I definitely wish the group could’ve had one last hoorah by getting the chance to perform twice at SCN.”

The trip to Nashville and performance at Nationals kicked off spring break for Brownsburg students. Confirmation of the error did not happen until students and staff had been separated for the break. Not having the opportunity to see his students until April 9, over two weeks later, was something that braced the impact.

Spring break has been the smoothest possibility,” explained Strasser. “I have not been able to see them in person, but I have been able to message every student and every parent of every student who was on the trip.

Show Choir Nationals used raw points totals from the preliminary round to determine the finalists in 2024. The womens division and mixed finals were both scored using consensus ordinal rankings. In a statement, Nationals said that they will switch to consensus rankings to determine the finalists in 2025. It’s a move Strasser said he’s a fan of.

“We’ve used Carmen [Scoring, an online tabulations system] since everyone came back from covid,” he said of his own competition. “I give Franklin Central a lot of credit for that, because they were the first ones to do it. I really think it’s the only way to score contests. Consensus ranking is by far the best way to go. It takes out that one judge [who may have substantially different scores].”

Many online commenters feel that Nationals owes Brownsburg free entry into the 2025 competition. It’s an ongoing and much more nuanced situation than that, according to Strasser.

Show Choir Nationals, as soon as they found out there was an error, they immediately said ‘how can we make it up to you’,” he said. “A lot is still in the works. They’ve offered to help out with us going back in the future. I understand there’s a lot of things people assume they should do, and it’s just not feasible financially. Show Choir Nationals is doing just about everything they can and more.

It is worth noting that the 2024 Show Choir Nationals lineup was full by May 2023 and may be on a similar track this year, making any potential concession to Brownsburg a delicate balancing act for organizers.

Despite the outside noise and controversy that racked the program at one of its most delicate and vulnerable moments, both Smith and Strasser note that mindset is everything.

Regardless, I’m so glad our last performance was still spent at a venue like the Grand Ole Opry, and the experience was once in a lifetime. I know that a mistake like this is not made out of spite,” Smith said.

“We still ended the season with some of the best performances we had,” reflected Strasser.  “We still had a great experience. When we thought we didn’t make finals, we told them to remember the memories and the people we did it with. And that’s what we still have. My kids looked at it with the best lens possible.

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