Show Me Sound Chorus, Sweet Adelines International’s new director Heather Schouten has always enjoyed music and singing and she said she’s pleased to be working with the local barber shop-style group.
Schouten, 26, of Kansas City, who took over as director in January, is preparing the all-women chorus for the Spirit of the Midwest Region 5 Competition and Convention April 28 in Topeka, Kansas.
The women meet weekly on Monday evenings at Wesley United Methodist Church. They have 21 members and have been a formal singing group for 20 years in Sedalia. They recently lost their director and that’s when Schouten stepped in to direct.
“I’m the assistant director for the Kansas City Chorus,” Schouten said. “One of the ladies in that chorus used to be a member of this chorus. They had lost their director here and in order to keep their charter to be a chorus … they need to compete in regionals in April, but they didn’t have a director.”
She added she had heard of the position, but wasn’t sure she could take on an additional project.
“Then I got approached at our Kansas City rehearsal the next week by this lady,” she said. “She said ‘they really need somebody and I really want it to be you.’”
Schouten couldn’t say no. She called Show Me Sound Chorus Team Leader Bev Shoecraft about the position and agreed to be the interim director. Although the position is interim director, Schouten may decide to stay permanently.
“I’m here until at least the end of April for competition, and they are trying to get me to stay on permanently,” she said. “That might happen, we’ll see. I’m definitely thinking about it.”
Schouten has been a pianist since the age of 4 and she also plays violin. She always wanted to sing, but due to a car accident at age 4 that left her paralyzed from the chest down, she thought that dream would never take place.
“I grew up playing piano and violin,” she noted. “I’ve always been instrumental. I’m paralyzed from the chest down and I was told by doctors that I’d never be able to sing properly. When I got to college I was a music theory major and I wanted to be able to sing with my friends. So, I started taking voice lessons for fun.”
A professor began to give her lessons and told her there “was no reason” she couldn’t sing.
“He goes ‘I don’t know why they told you that, but you have the muscles to be able to do it. It might be different and feel different but you can sing,’” she added.
She noted that she fell in love with chorale music and changed her major to vocal education.
“I’m almost done with a masters in choral conducting,” Schouten added. “Everything I’ve ever done has been music, always. About six years ago I fell in love with men’s barber shop (music) because that same professor started directing men’s barber shop. He invited me to a rehearsal, and I’ve been obsessed ever since.”
She added that yes, women do sing barber shop music such as the Show Me Sound Chorus, Sweet Adelines and the Kansas City Chorus.
“I randomly met someone in the Kansas City Chorus and they said ‘oh we need a new director too, you should apply,’” she said. “So, I applied for that and got assistant director. So I just kind of fell into the barber shop world.”
Besides music directing, Schouten works full time as a receptionist for a Kansas City wheelchair company, Nu Motion.
“I answer phones all day and I do barber shop at night,” she added smiling.
She said that conducting the Sedalia group has been “amazing.”
“I never thought I’d be involved with woman’s barber shop, to be honest,” she added. “I was always involved with the guys and I loved it. It’s a lot of fun, this is my first official get-paid-for-directing job. So it’s responsibility, but Bev has been a huge help. She knows how everything works, so she’s my contact.
“They are so flexible … I have a chorale background, I don’t have a huge barber shop background, so the way I direct and the way I teach is very different. But, they are picking it up and they have improved drastically and it makes me really happy.”
Shoecraft said she is excited about having Schouten as director and about the group.
“We are about to celebrate our 20th anniversary,” she said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’re 20 years old.”
The ages of the group members vary from late 20s to 70s.
“That’s the greatest thing about Sweet Adelines,” Shoecraft said. “I used to belong to the Kansas City Chorus and we had women in their 80s on the risers as well as young gals in their early 20s.”
She noted that the group is for all ages.
“I always say ‘it keeps the old ones young and it allows the young ones to know how to age gracefully,” she said. “It is fun, that’s the greatest thing about it. I always say ‘Sweet Adelines is friendship set to music.’”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or on Twitter @flbemiss.