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The Wild, Wild West: Preseason Western Power Rankings

Updated: Mar 4

With the first competitions of the season in the California circuit, here’s how the top 10 contenders shake out in my view before the season.

(via losalshowchoir instagram)

  1. Los Alamitos Sound FX

After an undefeated season, what more can be said about FX? Their stunning “Pagliacci” show was one of their best, and a favorite among many show choir fans. Los Al will surely come out swinging at their first competitions, as they typically do. The Sound FX creative team is one of the best in the biz, and they’re always innovating. Whether it be a new choreography style, an entirely unique set theme, or a mind blowing backdrop, you are sure to get an amazing show. 

(via jbhsvma instagram)

2. John Burroughs Powerhouse

Powerhouse, when well-prepared and within time, is the best show choir in the world. Straight up. They are consistently the best dancing choir every single year, with top-ten vocals. Their shows are meticulously designed with the care and production value of a Broadway musical. Last season, however, both of Powerhouse’s Achilles’ heels were hit hard. Early season competitions have been difficult for them in the past. Last season, Powerhouse got swept by Sound FX at their first comp, and back in 2020 they earned a third place, being bested by Brea Olinda Masquerade and American Leadership Academy Evolution. In both seasons, Powerhouse went on to win all the rest of their competitions (kinda). Their other weakness last year were brutal time penalties at two of their competitions. In both cases, Powerhouse would’ve taken home first place if not for the penalties. I’ve been assured by members of the Powerhouse team that their show is shorter, and their backdrop is quicker to set up, so the only concern is their early-season performances. I predict a rocky start, but a finish as the best of the best.

(via burbankinsync instagram)

3. Burbank In Sync

When competing against the other two of the Big Three, In Sync seems to have a niche for 3rd place and best vocals. Burbank is arguably the best vocal group in the world, but even that isn’t enough to get it done in the California circuit. As of late, In Sync has been a step behind the rest of the competition in Showmanship, as shown by the last three years of results. I believe this will hold true again this year, but you can’t ever truly count In Sync out. They tend to have lightning-in-a-bottle incredible shows every few years that utterly dominate, and this could be one of those years where their showmanship catches up to their vocal dominance.

(Image from 2024 set, via scottcpark instagram)

4. John F. Kennedy Executive Order

These new kids on the block are no joke. After a Tier 1 debut last year, Executive Order (EO) looks bigger and better heading into next season. If any group were to take captions or even placements from the Big Three, they would be the ones to do it. With over 50 singers, EO is poised to make a statement in the circuit. Seeing their preview show live solidified my opinion that this group can be a perennial contender in the advanced divisions. Although they’re still a step behind the Big Three, Executive Order has all the tools to take advantage of and Big Three time penalty or early season stumble.

(via lacuevashowchoir instagram)

5. La Cueva Underground (NM)

Underground is a largely unknown choir in the greater show choir world, is the best group in New Mexico by a long shot and is one of the premier groups in the West. Last season, Underground attended their lone competition at Hart Encore, and took home first place and musicianship in a nail-biter split with Diamond Bar Marquis. In one of the biggest matchups of the year, they will have a rematch at the same competition. Underground has improved steadily the last few years and will be improved again this year. If Underground can pull out another victory at Hart, they’ll solidify their top-five spot in the power ranking, but it will be no easy feat.

(via dbhschoir instagram)

6. Diamond Bar Marquis 

Perhaps one of the best post-pandemic success stories, the sky's the limit for Marquis. Marquis picked up their first win in seven years in 2022 and have kept their foot on the gas since. Including that win, Marquis went on a four-competition winning streak, defeating the likes of Hart, Chaparral, and Glendora. Marquis’ last two comps of 2023 were 2nd places, losing only to Burbank In Sync and La Cueva Underground. In each of those two contests, they took a caption off the winning group. Arguably the best group around with membership in the 30s, you’ll be hard pressed to find better showmanship and choreography anywhere outside of the Big Three. If their musicianship improves, Marquis can take placements from larger groups and hold their own with any choir in the West.

(via glendorashowchoirs instagram)

7. Glendora Royal Stewarts

This is my hottest take so far, but there’s a lot to love about Royal Stewarts. Glendora’s vocal prowess is extremely promising. Last season, Glendora scored very well and even won at Los Alamitos Xtravaganza, but were just shy of some wins over the better California groups. They even managed a sneaky musicianship caption grab over last year’s JFK Executive Order. The last piece of the puzzle for Glendora was going to be choreography, and after hiring veteran show designer and choreographer Susia Ruddell of La Cueva and Hart fame, they finally have the complete picture. It may take more than a season to perfect Ruddell’s contemporary style choreography, but if it does click this year, Royal Stewarts will be scary for the groups higher up on the list.

(via hartchoir instagram)

8. Hart Sound Vibrations

Sound Vibes are a tricky one. On one hand, they’ve been on top of advanced mixed small for the better part of the decade, and boast the same team that put on one of the best advanced small shows in California history in 2020. On the other hand, they have a lot going against them this season. Sound Vibrations has been defeated by Marquis four times in a row, and didn’t compete against Glendora, La Cueva, or JFK last season. They’re also putting out their smallest group maybe ever, with enrollment in the low-to-mid 20s. It may be too herculean of a task for Sound Vibes to compete vocally with the groups higher up on the list. Hart’s ace in their sleeve is definitely their dancing. There aren’t many groups in California that can dance as well as Hart. This group even had one judge score them higher in showmanship than Burbank In Sync last season. It’ll be a bumpy road for Sound Vibrations this season, but with dancers like these, they will always have a chance.

(Image from 2024 set, via vvhs.choir instagram)

9. Valley Vista Vocal Thunder (AZ)

The pride of Arizona, Valley Vista is making the leap to advanced in 2024 after a dominant year in intermediate divisions. This group has all the makings of a contender but will have to prove it against tougher competition this year. For more info on Vocal Thunder, check out our spotlight article!

(via breachoirs instagram)

10. Brea Olinda Masquerade

Masquerade is not the same as they were pre-pandemic, but the rebuild is going very smoothly. Brea’s show this year is an improvement on all fronts, and they have the numbers to remain competitive in advanced small contests. They’re a great all-around group with very excited and dedicated members who really want to prove themselves this season, and they just might. Any higher group who takes a win over Brea for granted just might get surprised.

Honorable Mentions

Helix - Scored incredibly well in musicianship last season, and hired Dominic Matas as choreographer.

Chaparral - 50+ very passionate singers. They have just fallen short in recent years but could finally start to see success.

Bonita Vista - A recovering program with little success post-pandemic, looking to finally break back into the picture this year.

Closing Thoughts

This season, California will look to restore its former glory, with each major competition boasting one or more close calls and big matchups in the advanced division. Each group here could easily move up or down as many as three spots week to week. An honorable mention could fly as high as 7th, and a Big 3 group could drop to 4. This is one of the most competitive seasons in California show choir history, and I predict it will be one of, if not the most exciting regions in the country this year.

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