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Who’s Got Next: A look at future stars of California's Big Three 

If there’s one thing that separates California show choir from the rest of the country (besides the distance), it’s soloists. Each of Burbank In Sync, John Burroughs Powerhouse, and Los Alamitos Sound FX seemingly has an endless stream of game-changing superstar pop singers that go on to join the music industry post-graduation. But with each and every year, a new group is formed full of new faces who were hidden behind the seniors of last year, headlining prep groups, or even attending other schools. The question isn’t whether or not these groups will have a new group of stars ready for next year. The question is who’s got next?

John Burroughs Powerhouse

A Brief History:

Powerhouse typically has the most soloists of any group in the Big Three, and it makes sense why. They are perhaps the deepest group in the state, meaning that they have the highest number of solo-ready singers. In my opinion, they just graduated their most stacked class ever. Triple threat maestro Kaylor Toronto was accepted into Harvard for three separate majors, including Theater, Dance, and Media. During his time in Powerhouse, he made the group as a freshman and went on to have two lead roles and be a standout dancer for his whole time in the group. Also graduating last year are singing sensations Brooke Bailey and Sophie Pollono. Both had major solos in the last two Powerhouse shows, and the latter snagged a lead role in an upcoming musical adaptation of the famous novel “Little Women”. So with all this talent off on their new journeys, who could possibly take their place? Well, the answers may be more obvious than we think. 

Who’s Got Next?

The difficulty with pinpointing who might be Powerhouse’s next big deal is that there are so many options. The easy thing about it is there’s usually just as many solos! Let’s get the most convenient pick out of the way first. Ballet dancer Vivian Johns was last year’s main character, and will be a senior this year. This incredible ballerina was in her element with last year’s ballet theme, and brought an elegance to the stage that was unique to her into the show choir world. Without a doubt we will be seeing her, and if she’s half as good at singing as she is dancing, there’s a chance we will hear from her as well. Senior Mauricio Lara is another performer in contention for a feature. Although he’s no slouch vocally, he has made huge waves in the John Burroughs program as an actor. He narrated during their show last year, and portrayed Hades and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde at Burroughs’ “On Broadway” fall shows the past two years. Some other exciting soloists who you may hear from soon include Caleb Perez, who had a significant solo in last year’s show, Emma Kata, who played a big part in Burroughs On Broadway this most recent October, and sophomore transfer from Burbank High School, Evan Baker, who we'll get back to soon.

Los Alamitos Sound FX

A Brief History:

Of the California Big Three, Los Alamitos is the furthest from Hollywood, but somehow time and time again ends up with Hollywood-level talent. Sophia James, formerly known as Sophia Wackerman, even went so far as to take home a 7th-place finish on the American Idol singing competition in Hollywood just after graduating. FX’s phenomenal 2018 and 2019 shows featured the likes of Sara Mislang and Julian Naremore, and were some of the most dynamic storytelling sets in the group’s history. From 2020-2022, however, it seems that the choir didn’t have the huge multi-year stars that they’d had in the past. This is not for a lack of talent, of course, but a variety of factors related to the pandemic. Sound FX elected to reuse the music and most of the choreography from their 2020 show in their 2022 show. This choice made it tough for their soloists to carve out a spot in California show choir history. They would always be compared to the soloists from two years prior who sang the same solos, did the same choreography, and told the same story. Coming into last season, Los Alamitos really changed things up. With a new set, a new story, and just four total soloists, Sound FX once again delivered us the iconic characters they’re known for. Senior Jay Garcia absolutely stole the show with her captivating acting and brilliant voice. She had a stage presence that commanded attention, and every move she made was poised and intentional. However, she was not the only new breakout from last season…

Who’s Got Next?

With Los Alamitos Sound FX, the answer is clear. Arron Myers is the next multi-year featured performer for this group. This superstar lit the show choir world on fire as Pagliacci, the focus of FX’s show last year. There’s so many reasons to be interested in him going into the 2024 season. First and foremost he is spectacular, but that's not uncommon for Los Al. The two things that make him extra special is that he’s a hip-hop dancer, and he was doing his complex stunts and choreography as just a freshman last year. His performance as Pagliacci marks the first character for FX that’s primarily a dancer, and he joins the ranks of a very select group of dance-first leads in show choir. He may not be a lead every year, but he will certainly be featured in each show. Also, keep an ear out for his developing vocal skills. He sang a small solo near the end of the Sound FX 2023 show and although he sounded inexperienced, he has a nice voice. If the Los Al program puts a focus on his soloing, he could become a triple threat to rival Burbank In Sync’s Robert Wells (2012).

Burbank In Sync

A Brief History:

Burbank has many stars on its soloist walk of fame, including, of course, famous singer and Disney actress Dove Cameron. Last year, Burbank boasted a lineup featuring the incredible all-around performer Renee Harris and powerful vocalist Alaiyah Holland. These two did a great job selling the Great Depression theme as a speakeasy owner and jazz singer, respectively. The third of the lead trio, however, was freshman phenom Evan Baker. Evan was looking like one of the best overall performers in In Sync, and the perfect fill-in for the two seniors. Unfortunately for Burbank, Evan ended up transferring across town to John Burroughs. Whether this decision was for his performing or varsity basketball career is unclear, but one thing is certain: In Sync will miss him this year with no obvious replacements in sight.

Who’s Got Next?

Perhaps the most difficult of the Big Three to predict, In Sync doesn’t appear to have a star coming up the pipeline. I can assure you, however, that they do. With such a long-standing and respected program, Burbank will have multiple soloists ready to stun in the California show choir circuit. We’ll have to do a bit of guesswork, though, to try and foresee who exactly that may be. My best guess is senior Bethany Vitale. She’s found a home in the Burbank choir program after bouncing around from school to school in search of high level performing arts. She made the advanced treble group Impressions as a junior in her first year at her new school. Bethany also landed a sizable solo in the Impressions show and showcased a powerful voice. It’s anyone’s guess who may be holding the mics for In Sync next year, but Bethany would be my best bet.

With the California season kicking off in the middle of February, there's not much time left until we find out who this year's main characters are! Check back in to see how the Big Three (and the rest of the California choirs) do this season.

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