The enthusiastic youngsters singing this Saturday at the O’ Town Showdown will likely have enough energy to power a nearby substation. But showcasing local talent is only one aspect of this popular fifth annual event that has grown each year.
The competition will feature 16 choirs and show choirs at the Milburn campus of O’Fallon Township High School. Hundreds of youths and local parent and student volunteers are lined up for this blockbuster event.
Choirs begin performing at 9 a.m. There are breaks for lunch and dinner, before the awards and finals program gets underway. The public can attend any programming.
Great Expectations, OTHS’ show choir, will perform as an exhibition. As hosts, they are not in competition.
Nine school show choirs, however, will compete, including Villa Duchesne’s Villa Voice, Mehlville High School’s Adrenaline, Herscher High School’s Class Act, Springfield Southeast High School’s Sensations, Pekin Community High School’s The Noteables, Marquette High School’s Center Stae, Crete-Monee High School’s Cavaliers, Decatur Area Schools’ Elite Energy and Glenwood High School’s Titan Fever.
The choir contingent includes Marquette treble and mixed choirs, Collinsville’s treble and bass choirs and Mehlville’s concert choir.
To pull off such a massive event involves more than applause. It’s hard work, and the O’Fallon Choral Risers Association, which raises funds, volunteers, and serves as a strong advocate of the vocal programs at OTHS, organizes help and promotes it.
Jen Cochran, secretary and publicity chairman of OCRA, said that Cristina Nordin, the choir director, and her assistant Lauren Whitaker have been coordinating with choirs and judges since late fall.
“My favorite thing about the event is not just seeing all the kids perform — although there are some amazingly talented youth in this area. I love to see how they interact with each other off stage, cheering on their favorite teams, encouraging soloists, complimenting costumes, and breaking out into spontaneous song and dance. The atmosphere is charged with energy all day long,” she said.
Cochran takes care of the marketing, sponsors and program, while Colleen Harr coordinates the volunteers, and Jenn Bickel and Tim Ryan oversee the cafeteria and concessions. They are supportive of the event because of its impact on the students.
“Ideally, the event requires over 100 student and parent volunteers in order to be a positive experience for all involved,” she said.
Tasks include everything from stage crew to setting up rooms for visiting choirs and judges, to preparing food in the cafeteria, and taking care of sidewalks in case of inclement weather.
The Showdown is the show choir’s biggest fundraising event.
“It helps make the program self-sustaining by supplementing the show choir budget, keeping our fees reasonable while allowing us to remain competitive against choirs with student fees two-three times higher,” Cochran said.
Great Expectations travels to five competitions a year.
“These fees are applied to travel costs, costumes, specialized instruction, and program development. Every student is tasked with volunteering at the event as well as finding a monetary sponsor to help offset costs,” she said.
The event also features some fun extras for the students — there will be a DJ, photo booth and T-shirts for sale.
The choir groups range from about 20 to 50 students, and are divided into large group, small group, and prep/unisex.
While each group competes for division awards, there are also the following caption awards: best male/female soloist from a show, outstanding male/female performer, best band, best ballad, best opener, best closer, and people’s choice. For the top four groups, the final awards consist of best vocals; best choreography; first, second, and third runner-up; and grand champion, Cochran said.
“Additionally, there is a solo competition in which two to four students from each school compete, and there is one male and one female champion. This is the first year we have held a choral competition in addition to the show choir competition. They are divided into mixed choir and unisex choir,” she said.
About the OTHS choral program
The OTHS choral program involves more than 200 students in grades 9 through 12. The Singing Panthers are consistently ranked as one of the top five choir programs in the state.
The goal is for students to develop discipline, work ethic, music appreciation, camaraderie and respect for all students involved, their website states.
Nordin has been at OTHS for seven years and oversees four curricular choral ensembles, two vocal jazz ensembles and serves as the artistic director for the annual Madrigal Dinner and spring musical.
Auditions for the school’s competitive, award-winning show choir program are at the end of the school year for the upcoming one.
In August, before school starts, choir members attend a week-long summer camp where they meet each other, participate in team-building and begin learning their set. From September to January, they rehearse three nights a month from 6 to 9 p.m., in addition to one marathon Saturday a month.
Once competition season begins, which is typically early February, the Saturday rehearsals are dropped, and the weeknight rehearsals are used to incorporate feedback from competitions.
Before coming to O’Fallon, Nordin taught general music and music appreciation in Edwardsville. She is a graduate of Millikin University, was part of their prestigious One Voice vocal jazz choir.
More information on the OTHS music program can be found at OTHSchoir.com. More information on the event can be found on the O’Town Showdown event page on Facebook.