Taylor Jones rehearses the Sky Valley Education Center show choir’s set ‘Stronger.’
Taylor Jones rehearses the Sky Valley Education Center show choir’s set ‘Stronger.’

It took two years for Pam Weaver’s home-school show choir students to prepare for their performance at the Burroughs Music Showcase in California last month.

The Sky Valley educator told them on Friday, May 19, in their Sky Valley Education Center classroom, that she still isn’t tired of watching the group rehearse the 20-minute set. Most were in casual clothes, and a handful were saving their voices for the musical theater performance of Peter Pan that evening, but the emotion was hard to ignore.

The performance starts with Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” which they named their entire set after. Senior Piper Hollefreund won the “Best Soloist” award for their division at the competition for her solo in the opening piece.

When they heard the news, Taylor Jones said the entire group reacted as if they themselves had won.

“When we heard Piper’s name, we all cheered,” she said, holding her face, as if reliving the moment.

Other songs in the set list are “It’s Time,” by Imagine Dragons, “Mad World,” by Gary Jules and “Fight Song,” by Rachel Platten. Each features solos from many of the other students.

It took Weaver 40-60 hours of planning to come up with the concept. She said she wants her students to take what they learn from performing with them offstage. The songs Weaver chose were meant to separate being negative with being different. She said she wanted her kids to take strength from their diversity.

“And all of those differences together make us strong as a group,” she said.

Junior Corrine Booth echoed her teacher’s sentiment. She and her classmates exhibit a spectrum of personalities, and it shows in their performances as a group and as individuals, she said.

Mackenzy Anderson said show choir is a safe place, where everyone can be as they are.

Weaver said it didn’t take much convincing for the students to want to put in the work for California. Everyone had to fundraise and pay their way. That is partially why it took so long for them to get to the competition, she said.

Weaver slowly built up her students’ skill set over the past two years. Show choir involves singing, dancing and being emotive on stage. The three elements can be a challenge to coordinate. It took time to teach her kids how to absorb and express the music, she said.

Senior Morgan Schartung won the best performer award in the SVEC choir at the competition. She said the class is a place where she can set aside all of the personal, social and academic stressors in her life.

“I can leave it somewhere it is not going to be harmful to anyone,” Schartung said.

Weaver has help in evolving her concepts. She started working with her choreographer, Monica Francis, four years ago.

“I am trained... in vocals especially, so I needed to bring on somebody who would complement my vision and work with me,” she said. “Over the last four years, we have done a lot of work together, and she is just an asset to my program.”

During Friday’s rehearsal of the competition performance, Francis called the group to attention much like a drill sergeant.

“A-ten-hut, a-ten-hut, parade rest, check your spot — heads up, check your spot — heads down,” she shouted, and all fell in line.

At various times, the two leaders could be seen singing and dancing along with the class. As Weaver watched the performance, she talked about how she wanted each one of the students to feel like they had the power to do anything, that they have the ability to change the world.

Weaver also took some lessons away from their trip to California. The class chose to participate in Disney’s Performing Arts program, and took part in a 90-minute workshop at Disney Land. The session’s leader shared a few memorable remarks to Weaver’s class.

One was: “How you do anything is how you do everything,” Weaver said. She has brought that idea into her classroom, and will continue to in the future.

“That 90-minute workshop was transformative for many of these students,” she said.

Anderson said her class will never be the same after their trip to California this year. She and her classmates agreed the chance to perform with other show choir students in a professional setting was life changing.

Weaver said the group also left its own mark. The judges at the competition called the students’ performances inspirational, for “their fierce commitment and giant hearts,” she said.

Weaver’s show choir students will be performing their set from the competition at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 7, at Monroe High School. They will also join the entire SVEC choir program at 7 p.m. Friday, June 2, at The Church at Maltby for an end of the year concert.