Bang! We hear from the drums, as we climb onto the risers Bang! We hear again, and we sit into our starting position. The music starts, we breathe, we think of our starting pitches, and the soloist begins. At least that’s how our performances began last year, but this year we don’t see anything like that in sight.Show choirs are looking different all around the world, even right here in DeForest.
DeFortes, the show choir at DeForest Area High School, has been rehearsing completely virtual all season. For many students this is a big change. “You have to push yourself a lot harder to be motivated,” says
Camille Hedberg, a senior in DeFortes. The reason this is such a big change is because show choir is where you sing and dance, but doing that virtually can cause difficulty. Laura Kunz, another senior in DeFortes explained, “singing is entirely auditory, yet we can’t all turn our microphones on” and “Dancing is very visual and so unless everyone has their cameras on and there’s no lag, it’s hard to critique.”
Not only do students have to learn in a new format but they have also had to undergo multiple other changes like getting a new show choir and show band director, a new choreographer, and new members. The new choir director, Ms. Lyrica Daentl, explained it perfectly: “It has been a very unexpected year.” But, she has “embraced this virtual format” and is trying to make it her own and “make the most out of it” despite the circumstances. This year rehearsals are around two hours long instead of the normal four to five hours, so students can have less time staring at screens.
When asked about preparing for rehearsals every week Ms. Lyrica explained her process: “It starts with me meeting with my show choir leaders, my section leaders and dance leaders. After every show choir rehearsal, we talk about how rehearsal went, feedback, what went well, what could have [gone] better, what we need to focus on next week. And by meeting with them from anywhere between 10 to 15 minutes at the end of rehearsals, we kind of figure it out.”
Ms. Lyrica continues, “Technology was definitely an enemy in the first couple of weeks but technology was an enemy for us all. Not just teachers, students, everyone you know, everyone working from home, we’re all figuring it out.” Section leaders have also had to figure it out, section leaders are individuals chosen to lead and help students in the same voice part as them, and dance leaders are chosen to help clean and teach dances. For Dance Leader Laura Kunz, “It’s definitely challenging trying to teach virtually.” She has to try and demonstrate the dance moves and have everyone else follow along as best as they can in their own spaces, and it really affects the leaders when everyone has their cameras off and nobody is communicating; it’s as if they are talking to themselves.
But for students “it’s also really difficult sitting at a screen and not really being able to work together,” said Camille. Being virtual has also really affected students’ motivation. For Camille, she “barely [has] any motivation to do anything, which is really sad.” For Laura, however, being virtual “helped me to focus more on my personal singing and dancing performance without relying so much on others. Without listening to the entire choir, I’m able to be more aware of individual mistakes when I’m singing. I also can’t secretly watch [other dancers] Ari or Dayna out of the corner of my eye when I’m dancing.”
Even though there is some hope in the foreseeable future of this show choir season, there is still a lot of sadness that follows. For Camille, “It was my outlet, and I really miss it” and as a member of the show choir myself, I think that’s how a lot of other members feel. Everyone is metaphorically mourning the loss of everything that was wanted in that season that is unable to happen because of COVID-19. More than anything, the little things are missed, like “singing and dancing with everyone, practicing quick costume changes, doing hair and makeup, listening to show band play, and competing with other show choirs” says Laura, and you really know that show choir impacted so many people in so many ways when students like Laura miss “running stairs for warm up, carrying risers, getting up super early for competitions, and having to wear fake eyelashes!”
“If we were in person right now we would be having some long weekend rehearsals, getting some things all crunched out and showband getting everything figured out. We would be all around the state of Wisconsin at different competitions and just showing them what we do,” explains Ms. Lyrica. Laura also mourns the loss of the season, “Show choir practices used to be a constant race toward being as clean as possible with vocals and choreography leading up to each competition, but now we just do what we can to practice songs and dances each Sunday, unsure of how things will play out in the future.”
This year has left a lot more to be desired but hopefully towards the end of the school year there will be more opportunities. Once the weather starts to get better DeFortes will be able to have rehearsals outside, and possibly use other venues. As long as DeFortes “focuses on what we can do. And we can build community, and we can continue singing and dancing” explains Ms. Lyrica, everything will be okay.
Ms. Lyrics final words when talking about this season were “what keeps me going, are my students, and giving them the opportunity that they all deserve.”