State Fair Community College will be hosting 13 show choirs from throughout the state Saturday at the SFCC Invitational Show Choir Festival.
The event at the Heckart Center for the Performing Arts provides audience members the opportunity to see and hear some of the most talented young high school musicians who are currently performing.
As a member of a show choir, the opportunities for future growth are often just as important as the performance itself.
“Last year was my first time to ever direct a show choir,” Smithton Choir director Cal Bergthold said. “It was my first year teaching and I truly didn’t know what to expect but it was so wonderful to be a part of.
“I had the chance to see the relationships these kids developed,” Bergthold said. “The close knit bonds and friendships they created were so incredible.”
Bergthold said one of the most fascinating experiences was watching the students who had the chance to work together across grade levels.
“For us, and I think at many small schools, (music ensembles) may be the first time that students have the chance to perform together from freshmen through seniors on the same level,” Bergthold said. “It was interesting to watch the dynamics of the group; to watch and see who would set up and take the lead and which students became the helpers.”
Working together and finding a place where one feels needed is a large part of the show choir experience, according to Smithton High School Principal Jonathan Peterson.
Peterson is an advocate of the arts and he knows firsthand the role they can play in a student’s life — he performed in show choir as a high school student in Cole Camp and in college while a student at SFCC.
“I come from a very vocal family,” Peterson said. “I always enjoyed singing and growing up in Cole Camp it was something that was always encouraged and I think expected.
“At Cole Camp when I was a student show choir wasn’t a class, it was extra-curricular and so we met at 6:30 in the morning to practice,” Petersen said. “It was something I enjoyed but I never really thought of the opportunities that might be there for my future.”
Those opportunities became apparent to Peterson after an assembly when he was a student.
“The show choir from SFCC came and put on a performance for us at school,” Peterson said. “They were really good and were at the next level of what was possible; I didn’t seek it out, but after watching them I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
“Not going to college wasn’t an option for me, and when I saw there were scholarships available as a singer the choice seemed obvious,” he added.
The opportunity to travel was another incentive.
As a member of the SFCC Show Choir, he had the opportunity to take three cruises to Jamaica, Cozumel and Bermuda as well as having the opportunity to travel to other locations across the United States.
“I came from the small town of Cole Camp and show choir provided me experiences I would never have anywhere else,” Petersen said. “It wasn’t just the scholarship though or the travel, being a part of show choir was hard work.
“I really think that is one of the benefits of being a member of something like this,” Peterson added. “It really helped me to develop my work ethic.”
Like Bergthold, Peterson also feels show choirs allow students the opportunity to feel like they are a part of something they may not have the opportunity to experience elsewhere.
“I always felt like I was a part of a family when I was in show choir,” Peterson said. “It gave me a place where I felt needed whether it was when I was building sets or performing I had to develop different skill sets and I knew others were depending on me to contribute.”
Thirteen years after his final performance at SFCC, Peterson continues to perform as a member of Maenchor, a traditional German choir that performs both locally and throughout the Midwest.
“I know for Jonathan, performing is something that he has always done,” Smithton Middle School Principal Brandon Wallace said. “He realizes the importance of the performing arts and he shares it not only with his three children but with the students here at Smithton as well.”
Audience members can see the talent of more than 400 singers and musicians beginning at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Heckart Center at Smith-Cotton High School, 2010 Tiger Pride Blvd.
Performances are scheduled every half hour until 5 p.m. The awards presentation is scheduled for 6 p.m.
The cost of admission is $5 for the entire day and individuals may leave and re-enter throughout the day.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484