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Morning Finals on Famed Nashville Stage: Show Choir Nationals from a Performer's Perspective

Three Indianapolis schools finished their seasons at Show Choir Nationals on March 21-23. This three-day competition was like nothing these groups have ever experienced. From morning finals to performing on the famed Grand Ole Opry stage to dancing the night away at the after-party, this competition was unique in all of the right ways. Let’s take a look at some of the moments that will stick with these performers for the rest of their lives.


Noblesville

Noblesville NHS Singers performs their ballad at Ball State (Nathan Ensley)


After hosting the previous week, Noblesville entered this competition with a mix of nerves and confidence. It had been nearly a month since Noblesville’s mixed group, NHS Singers, had competed, but junior member Mia Feigel explained that the group was feeling confident ahead of their return to the competition stage.


“Performing at a competition like this is something I had never experienced before, so I was nervous coming into it,” Feigel said. "My group had worked really hard leading up to Nationals, which helped ease my nerves and gain confidence for this competition.”


After a very competitive prelims round, NHS Singers narrowly made finals and was close behind Cedar Rapids Kennedy for fifth after the first day of performances. The group met Friday afternoon to make adjustments ahead of their final performance the next morning, which senior Maddie McIntyre described.


“I would say the jump from our prelims to finals performance was the leg up we needed to feel content with our show and our team,” McIntyre said. “We had a meeting Friday night about the judges’ notes and what changes we had to make the next morning. Looking back, I am incredibly proud and impressed that we were able to pull through and lock in to make our finals performance great.”


Noblesville’s finals performance was certainly a step up from prelims, as they surged past Kennedy to take fifth place in finals. For senior Aiden Harlow, his favorite part of the week was getting to take in the audience and atmosphere within the Grand Ole Opry.


“What made it special was the experience,” Harlow said. “The atmosphere. The audience. The stage itself is so iconic, so the fact we had the chance to even set foot on it was incredible.”


Noblesville New Dimension performs at Noblesville (Nathan Ensley)


For New Dimension junior Abby Wigger, her favorite moment came at the Show Choir Nationals after-party long after her group had performed.


“I honestly think getting to meet friends and dance at the after-party was the biggest highlight,” Wigger said. “Imagine a bar with no alcohol for kids but instead filled with only talented people who know how to sing and dance. I loved every second of nationals and will forever remember this trip with my best friends.”


Brownsburg

Brownsburg Starlight Voices performs their ballad at Franklin Central (Nathan Ensley)


Heading into Show Choir Nationals, Brownsburg was feeling all the emotions from nerves to excitement to sadness knowing that this was their last competition of the season. Junior Ava Matthews of Starlight Voices, Brownsburg’s varsity girls group, was particularly nervous that their group would have just one chance to prove themselves.


“I was super excited, but also incredibly nervous and sad,” Matthew said. “I mean, performing on the Grand Ole Opry stage is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so I was stoked to get on the stage. But, it's also nerve-wracking knowing that we only had one shot to nail the performance. It was so sad to perform this show for the last time. I love this group of girls and I’m so proud of what we did!”


Starlight Voices wanted to close out their season with their best performance yet, which required them to leave it all out on the stage on Thursday night. Matthews describes how the group approached their performance as they prepared to take the famed Grand Ole Opry stage.


“Unfortunately, for the [single-gender] division, there was no finals,” Matthews said. “We knew we had to leave it all on stage after this performance. We kept getting told that this had to be our best performance yet since it was the last time we were competing and performing this show in general. All of us, every single one of us, locked in backstage and had our best performance yet. I am so proud of everyone in this group and am so happy with the way we ended the season. That was the strongest we have ever sung.” 


Following their performance, it did not matter to these girls what place they would later receive. All that mattered was that they delivered their best performance yet on the national stage. Sophomore Reese Bingaman describes what happened in the moments between exiting the Grand Ole Opry and waiting for the bus to take them back to their hotel.


“[My favorite moment was] waiting for our bus after we performed to head to the hotel to change,” Bingaman said. “We were all still riding that adrenaline high, and then seeing our director all smiles was so surreal. The look our choreographers gave us when they came out just sealed the deal. We all knew right then and there that the placement didn't matter. We had left it all on that stage, and it felt like such a win. To know that we gave it our all and to see the pride on our directors' faces was just a full-circle moment. They came up with our show idea at nationals last year, so, to come back and rock it with the show they designed was just such a special moment for me.”


Brownsburg Spotlight Singers & Company performs their ballad at Franklin Central (Nathan Ensley)


On Friday morning, Brownsburg’s mixed group, Spotlight Singers & Company, delivered an incredible performance worthy of a finals spot. At the prelims award ceremony, Brownsburg was not announced as a finalist. As Brownsburg’s student leadership left the stage, they attempted to stay composed despite the disappointing end to their season. Co-President Kati Smith describes that moment.


“For the prelim awards, our senior dance captain, myself, and the other co-president were representatives for the group,” Smith said. “When the curtain closed after the finalists were called, we stood there for a minute to take in our last few moments. All I could think was that there was no way that was the end. Being in leadership, I think we take it a lot more personally. Thinking about if there was more we could do to help the group. Ultimately, our task was to keep our heads up as we walked out with tears down our faces. It was a hard-hitting moment for a lot of people, but leadership made sure everyone in the group knew how proud we were of them and how much we loved them.”


The group learned on Sunday while they were sightseeing around Nashville that a scoring error may have left them out of finals. Later, on Tuesday evening, Show Choir Nationals made an official statement, acknowledging that they had made a tabulation error, and Brownsburg should have made finals. While Smith was disheartened that the group did not have a second performance, she was glad the group had the chance to finish their season at such a prestigious venue.


“It definitely is heartbreaking,” 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 wish the group could have had one last hoorah by getting the chance to perform twice at SCN. We have worked so hard this season to bring more recognition to our department. 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.”


Center Grove

Center Grove Debtones performs their closer at Noblesville (Nathan Ensley)


Center Grove was incredibly excited heading into Show Choir Nationals. This was their first time competing at the event since 2019, and members of both groups could not wait to perform at the prestigious Grand Ole Opry. Debtones Senior and opener soloist Bernice Ling explains how it felt to perform their show for the last time at the Grand Ole Opry.


“I was super excited coming into this week because we would be performing at the Grand Ole Opry, which was such an honor,” Ling said. “It was so cool that I would be performing this show one last time at this amazing stage. I was a little emotional since it was our very last performance of 'Eve,' but it was a magical experience on that stage. There will truly be no better feeling than performing on stage with people who love music as much as I do, and I will miss it so much next year.”


While the Debtones have had many memorable and awe-inducing performances, junior member Emma McInnes is confident that their Nationals performance was their best of the year.


“Our last performance at the Grand Ole Opry was most definitely our best performance yet,” McInnes said. “I could feel the love and determination from every single woman in Debtones that day! We were determined to win. We sounded and looked absolutely amazing. I could not be more proud of us.” 


As Debtones began their bow sequence, the curtain began descending from the rafters. While the audience and judges were unable to witness the final moments of the Debtones’ show, it did allow for one member to take a final bow with their group, which Company Manager Meredith Nguyen describes fondly.


“Despite Show Choir Nationals' tiny mess up of lowering our curtain too soon, I was personally really touched with how my best friend, Gabby Rogers, who wasn't able to compete at Nationals because of an injury, could come out and do a final bow with us,” Nguyen said.


Center Grove Sound System performs their closer at Noblesville (Nathan Ensley)


For Center Grove’s mixed group, Sound System, their primary focus was to close out an undefeated season, which would be the group’s first since 2021. And what better place to accomplish that feat than the Grand Ole Opry, where many famous country singers have performed before. Sophomore member Dhruv Kartik explains that performing on the Grand Ole Opry stage was his favorite part of the Nationals experience.


“My favorite moment was being able to perform on the Grand Ole Opry stage and then winning Show Choir Nationals,” Kartik said. “It was such an honor and an amazing feeling being able to perform on a stage where many celebrities have performed on before such as Elvis and Dolly Parton.”


At center stage of the Grand Ole Opry is a circle of wood crafted from the original stage of the Ryman Auditorium, which was the predecessor to the Grand Ole Opry. It also marks the spot where many famous stars delivered iconic performances on the stage. For sophomore Ethan Wood, getting to dance on that very spot is a moment he will never forget.


“My favorite moment was about halfway through our third number,” Wood said “It dawned on me that I was dancing on the infamous circle at the Grand Ole Opry. It felt so surreal to think about the fact that so many famous performers had stood in that exact same spot.”


Sound System has been known for their legendary finals performances this year, overtaking both Carmel and Los Alamitos after trailing in prelims at previous competitions. At Show Choir Nationals, it was no different as Center Grove fed off the nationals crowd to send their performance to a level not witnessed before.


“These performances were insane,” Wood exclaimed. “The crowd loved our show, and you could just feel that from the stage. The energy was crazy, and I feel like it pushed me to my absolute hardest, harder than I’d ever gone before.”


Show Choir Nationals puts on a spectacle each and every year. For these young performers, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to perform at a famed venue and explore Nashville alongside all of their friends. With the Indiana competition season coming to a close, Show Choir Nationals was the national competition most fitting to be the final chapter for these shows and groups to close out on.

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