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The way Aaron Coates sees it, it’s a good thing if people are surprised by just how complex and challenging performing in show choir is.

“One of our jobs is to be entertaining, to make it look fun and easy,” says Coates, a Zionsville Community High School Showchoirs director for much of the last two decades. “People think, ‘That’s awesome. It must be a lot of fun,’ and they don’t realize it’s a lot of work too.”

Coates and Deana Broge direct ZCHS’ Choralaires, the girls show choir, and Royalaires, whose members are boys and girls. The groups specialize in performing show tunes and pop music, but Coates says there is much more to it for the performers than simply showing up, singing and dancing.

After auditioning in the spring, Zionsville’s show choirs begin their work for the year during a retreat in July. They continue to rehearse and learn choreography during class and by practicing between three and eight hours outside of school each week. Choreographers and vocal clinicians travel to the school to help the show choirs’ members perfect their craft.

The Choralaires and Royalaires have local performances in the fall and during the holidays. Then they switch to competition mode before wrapping up the year with another community performance, “Finale,” in May.

This year’s competitions yielded impressive honors for Zionsville’s show choirs as well as their backing band, dubbed the Combo & Crew. They were named grand champions for overall performances and received top awards for elements including vocals, choreography, creativity, visuals, crew and band.

The accomplishments are impressive, but Coates says he’s even prouder of the groups because of the challenges they had to overcome.

The Royalaires, in particular, performed unusually complex material with difficult choreography, he says. And then there was the weather, with wintry conditions forcing the show choirs to miss as many as 12 sessions with the visiting clinicians.

That the groups persevered despite those obstacles is a testament to the mindset of the ZCHS show choirs, Coates says.

“The overall goal is to grow together as a community and as individual performers,” he says. “Most who audition to be a part of this want to be a part of something great, something special. That has been the history and culture of the program.”

Now Coates is excited about showcasing the progress of the 100 members of this year’s show choirs, band and crew at “Finale” on May 10 and 11 at the Zionsville Performing Arts Center.

“The kids have all developed as performers. They’re not the same kids they were,” he says. “So it’s fun to me to see them put new performance practices on old material. They’ve grown and improved. And people who have not been to Finale always are surprised by how nice the performance is. They come away going, ‘That’s one of the best things I’ve seen, and we’ll be back.’”

To learn more about Zionsville Showchoirs, their 2019 competition season results, and “Finale,” visit zchoirs.com.