Way back Wednesday – show choir

Every Wednesday, the West Side Story shares information from past articles in relation with today’s news.


Taylor Shelfo, Broadcast Anchor

Tonight is Works in Progress, a show that West High hosts for both their show choirs and City High’s to perform how much they have accomplished in the three months of practicing. In relation to this performance, I thought we should take a look at how show choir has evolved since the 70s to now.

In the 60s and maybe even before then, show choir wasn’t even show choir. It was called West’s “Swing Choir” and wasn’t officially named the Good Time Company until the late 70s. 1980, they brought in the Sophomore Singers, accompanying GTC to competitions (I’m assuming this was their equivalent to Showtime, the JV show choir).

In the 70s when show choir had just started, it took less than 30 people out of the 70 that auditioned, with only two alternates. In 1996, GTC only held 44 students and ten band members. The year 2000 rolled around and they opened the choir to sophomores and accept ten alternates. Today, there are over 60 singers and 25 band members, but that doesn’t include the band and singers in both Showtime and Primetime as well.

To audition for “swing” choir, you had to attempt three different dance steps, sing the Star Spangled Banner, and sight read a song at random. I wish it was still that easy, but now you have to perform a piece they choose, acapella and preferably memorized, and dance a 30 second routine that you learn two days before.

The biggest changes between then and now are the performances. Back then, GTC performed at the choral concerts along with the Varsity Chorus, Sophomore Chorus, and other men and women ensembles (today’s West Singers, Bass Choir, Virtuosa, etc, etc). I can’t imagine how long those performances would be because choir concerts alone can run up to two hours now, and then adding the twenty extra minutes for each show choir that performed, yikes. That’s probably why show choir performances are separate now – and only last up to an hour or hour and a half at most with both GTC, Showtime, and sometimes City’s groups.

What amazes me is that money was very different back then, but West was still able to travel around the nation for show choir competitions. Nowadays we’re just lucky for the one overnight stay in Nebraska. In the late 90’s, they traveled to a competition in New Orleans in February and had a send-off concert before every departure. In the 80’s they went to Chicago to work specifically with a world-renown choreographer in September. But my all time jealousy goes to the 1989 invite to represent Iowa as a whole in the Young American Festival in Hollywood! This wasn’t the first time either, they went to this festival, Disneyland, many other exciting sites around the nation – so much so that people dreamt of the traveling and hype of show choir since birth.

“It’s been a dream of mine ever since I was a tyke,” said Brian Sheker ’89.

Back then, minimum wage was about $2.90, so compared to now, trips around the nation in the 70’s sound cheap, but are unrealistic for the 150+ students involved in show choir, the parents and directors, the transportation, and the instruments we’d have to transport to Hollywood. In a way all of these “problems” can be good things, because in less than fifty years, the amount of people in GTC alone doubled, not to mention the addition of Showtime and the temporary Primetime.

Go West and all its activities!