Monday, February 06, 2006

My Startling Confession

For those of you that thought you really knew me, I have a startling confession to make: I was a member of my high school show choir.

And I’m not even going to water this down the way head church parishioners dilute that “orange drink” to only about 12 percent “drink;” I participated in this activity for three years, I was the student director my senior year, and I even went to a show choir summer camp in 1999 (which actually wasn’t that bad. The girl-to-boy ratio was about 5:1 in the first place, and once you factored out all of the homosexuals, it was more like 37:1. This meant that I virtually had my pick of the litter. I had more girls there than Hugh Heffner at a Kenny Chesney concert).

And really, I can’t complain because my show choir experiences are part of what got Amy interested in me. She, too, was a show choir minion—attended the camp and the whole deal—and that shared memory sparked some of our earliest conversations. How could it not? Show choir boasts one of the most eccentric groups of participants, fans, and vicarious-living parents in the history of high school extracurricular activities.

I was reminded of all this on Saturday when I escorted Amy to the Midwest Classic in Danville, a local show choir tradition held at The Girl’s old high school (also the alma mater of Jerry and Dick van Dyke. Extreme). She really loved this stuff when she was still part of all the hoopla, and she hadn’t gone back to attend in a couple of years. She (we) had an excuse this time around because her little cousin was performing. So, go we did…

The school was packed tighter than Best Buy on the day after Christmas, and young teen girls romped through the hallways while their hair (real and otherwise) galloped along behind them like curly blonde steeds. These poor girls also have to wear about seven pounds of makeup, in which the process of application includes a brief 15 minute facial baking in a conventional oven set at 450 Degrees Fahrenheit. They come out looking vaguely similar to test subjects for Homer Simpson’s makeup gun.

My own personal involvement in high school show choir was contingent on my NOT having had to wear makeup. Actually, none of the boys wore makeup at Central. At Danville, the show choir is so good that they could probably perform a nightly cabaret in Branson, Missouri, but the Central show choir was compiled of singers who would probably make it onto American Idol for the wrong reasons. Many of us would warrant Simon calling us “the musical equivalent of flatbread.” Plainly, we weren’t good.

But the groups at the Midwest Classic actually were (more or less). Where my show choir would perform either pieces that served as jingles for Chips Ahoy commercials or painfully optimistic tributes to Music with titles like “I’ve got Music in my Soul” (which was the real title to one of our songs), Amy’s old group did a ditty to Missy Elliott’s “Lose Control,” complete with B-Boy adidas jumpsuits and a hardcore band member wailing away on a xylophone as if xylophones were going out of style.

Most show choirs, including Amy’s and my own, have collective monikers that end in “–ion”: New Impressions, Delegation, Celebration, Jubilation, Registration, Carbonation, etc… This is the case for about three-fourths of all show choirs, and many of those have fancy colloquial spellings or end in exclamation points (Xperience!). I’m not sure who comes up with these names, but once the designation is applied, it changes about as often as the New York Yankees’ pinstripe jerseys.

Show choir is something that, if done poorly, can make for some of the largest nerds in the History of All Things Nerdy. There were several groups of this ilk on Saturday, one of whom even did an insane abstract Egyptian-themed routine in which the performers wore tunics that resembled Aztec tablecloths. The sad thing is that themed costumes like those are extremely expensive and have to be purchased every single school year. Amy said that her high school raised upwards of $3,000 annually just for costumes! At Central, I wore the same sequined vest, which under the right stage lighting, was bright enough to illuminate a small village, for all three years of my show choir career. But then again, our funding wasn’t quite that of some of these other schools. I digress.

And you know, I make fun of this stuff because I was part of it, and I know how ridiculous some of this stuff could be. Let’s face it, if Christopher Guest gathered the “Spinal Tap”/”Guffman” crew for a mockumentary about high school show choirs, we’d watch it, and we’d share a hearty laugh. However, the bottom line is that these students work exceptionally hard to put these shows together, and cheesy or otherwise, they do a nice job. I love knowing that there are teachers and sponsors out there that are willing to put such tremendous amounts of time and dedication into helping these students be really great at something. One thing I’m learning as a high school teacher is that adolescents need an identity, and they better they are at fitting into that identity, the more self-confidence they’re going to have. In conclusion: good for those schools, those students, and those sponsors. I’m proud of them all!

So there. There’s my confession. My penance should be something manly, something like “watch four hours of football, drink a couple of beers, and don’t talk about being in show choir for a few years.” The Super Bowl was on last night, and I had a few of my most masculine friends over. We discussed nothing of sequins. Check, check, and check.

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