Under The Spotlight
Center Grove Show Choirs Director, Performers & Parents Give Behind-the-Scenes Perspective
Writer / Trisha Turner
For some, it’s the realization of a dream they’ve had since they were small children. For others, it’s the showcasing of a recently discovered talent.
But for all 100 members of Center Grove High School’s varsity show choirs, rehearsing and performing is an opportunity to hone their musical skills — and learn valuable lessons about teamwork, leadership and the value of working hard.
“We hope we’re developing leaders,” says Jennifer Dice, a Center Grove High School choir director for more than a decade. “It’s always harder than they think it will be. They learn a lot of valuable leadership skills.”
Subi Pandit chuckles in agreement when he hears Dice talk about the hard work involved in being part of the show choirs. The Center Grove senior has been in choir throughout his high school career, with the last two years as a performer in the varsity boys and girls show choir, Sound System.
Before coming to the United States from Nepal as a 12-year-old, Pandit was interested in music. But he hadn’t considered participating in choir until being drawn to the strength of Center Grove’s program and its students and teachers.
Now Pandit is a company manager for Sound System, a position Dice likens to that of a president. He also is the leader of the choir’s tenor section.
Being part of the show choir, Pandit says, “is sometimes tiring. But performing, being in the moment, is the most exciting part.”
Sound System, along with Center Grove’s varsity girls show choir, The Debtones, rehearse both in school as part of a class and outside the school day. During their performance season, December through March, the show choirs put in about 20 hours a week preparing for performances.
The season culminates with its biggest competition. This year’s finale will be at the Show Choir Nationals in Nashville, Tenn., in March, during spring break. The Debtones took the top spot in the women’s division the last two times they performed there, with Sound System receiving first runner-up in the mixed division.
Leading up to the national competition will be local and regional performances, pitting Center Grove’s show choirs against some of the best in the area.
“Every competition brings its challenges,” Dice says.
The theme of Sound System’s performance this season is “the greatest shows on earth,” while The Debtones are highlighting Greek mythology. Each of the choirs’ 15-17-minute shows of singing and dancing is backed by professional musicians. The performances feature the use of high-tech tools that Dice says “make the show spectacular” — devices like a soundboard, an LED screen and a program that allows for replication of sounds.
Erin Booher, a Center Grove Choir Parent Organization board member, says the high quality of the show choirs’ performances sometimes surprises even the students who present them. The best part of being involved in the choirs, she says, is “seeing your child do things you didn’t think they would ever be able to do at a high school level.”
Booher’s daughter, Halle Booher, is a junior who is the alto section leader in Sound System. Halle, who even as an elementary student aspired to be part of Center Grove’s choir program, is in her second year with the group. She performed with The Debtones her freshman year.
The show choirs’ elaborate performances require the work of students, directors and families alike. Erin Booher says behind-the-scenes work from volunteers who assist with everything from styling hair, to sewing costumes, to moving stage equipment is critical to the quality of performances.
“Others think of it as individual,” Pandit, the Sound System company manager, says of involvement in show choir. “But it’s not. We work as individuals but as a team.”
It’s that teamwork experience, along with leadership skills, that director Dice hopes the show choir members will carry into their adult lives — even for students like Pandit who don’t plan to pursue music professionally. Pandit will study computer science in the fall.
“We want to provide them with the greatest opportunities,” Dice says.
Visit centergrovechoirs.org for more information about auditions, performances and other events and opportunities to get involved.