Show choir makes history as four-time Grand Champion

by Laura Bednar

Show choir is more than singing and dancing; it’s a theatrical performance that requires months of preparation. That hard work has paid off for the All Americans, who have earned the title of Grand Champion in all four of their competitions this year.

The group is made up of 38 students from 16 schools in communities like Akron, Stow, Hudson, Cuyahoga Falls and Richfield. All Americans is one of four choral groups at the ETC Heid’s School of Musical Arts in Akron.

Six students hail from Revere High School: Drew Muehlfeld, Ty Muehlfeld, Miah Palmer, Katarina Stevanovic, O’ Bucher and Ruby Ungar. Member Eva Morales is a Bath resident attending Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy.

ETC Executive Director Robert Sabree said All Americans is for boys and girls in grades 9-12. “It’s the top mixed group with the hardest songs and dancing,” he said.

The other groups are divided into elementary students, middle school students and a group for treble voices only, called Rouge. Morales is also a member of Rouge, which consists of all high school females.

Rouge also competed well this year, winning all three of its competitions in the treble division and taking third place in a competition that includes mixed groups. The group earned “best singing” in all three treble competitions and “best choir” in two of three.

Competitions take place at high schools throughout the Midwest; Sabree said up to 18 schools compete in one day. This year, the All Americans competed at Northrop High School and Bishop Luer’s High School, both in Indiana; Twinsburg High School; and Olentangy High School near Columbus.

Judges are teachers or show choir professionals. They narrow the 18 schools to five or six, according to Sabree. The remaining groups then perform for a final time.

Students are rated on singing, dancing, instrumentation and show design. The title of Grand Champion is the highest rank in the competition as a whole. All Americans earned “best dancing” in all four competitions and “best singing” in three of four.

“In 46 years, this is the first time All Americans have been undefeated,” said Sabree. “This is the most wins ever for them.”

Creating a show

Each show choir group learns and practices its show during a summer camp, then practices once a week for four hours. “We run the show a lot to make sure we have the stamina,” said Morales.

The shows are 20-minute productions in which students sing and dance the entire time. Morales added there is a theatrical element; performers must convey the feeling of the performance through facial expressions.

“After practicing, it’s easy to put a face to the song,” she said.

This year’s show was focused on Hollywood and included songs that tell a story about experiencing fame. Songs included “Hollywood’s Bleeding” by Post Malone, “Producer Man” by Lyn Lapid and “Exile” by Taylor Swift. Morales said the songs flowed like a story, starting with a look at the bad side of Hollywood, becoming a big star, being exiled from the community and finally feeling like you made it.

Revere High School Senior Ty Muehlfeld said, “This is by far the most exciting show ETC has attempted.”

A three-year member of the group, Muehlfeld said previous years’ performances had individual songs, but not a connecting theme with a plot. “This year’s [performance] helped propel the show and make it more exciting to watch and perform,” he said. “I felt there was an acting element to it. I was a character in the show and it made me empowered as a performer.”

The performance requires many hands: choreographers, music directors, set designer, light operator and what ETC calls the “garage band,” made up of student and adult musicians who accompany the singers. Sabree said many of the staff and directors are ETC alumni, himself included.

Choir connections

Muehlfeld said he was grateful to share the stage with his brother Drew, a Revere freshman. “I was full of pride getting to watch him and the work he puts in to improve,” he said. “He far surpassed what I did in my first year [with the group]. I’m excited to come back and see how he’s grown.”

Morales said her favorite part of being in show choir for a seventh year is meeting people from different schools who have become friends. “It’s a chance to meet new people and gain a lot of experience beyond choir and dance teams in school,” she said.

Before the show, Muehlfeld said the group chants: “Who are we? ETC. What are we? Family.”

“It’s a true chant in that the people in it I consider family,” he said. Muehlfeld plans to pursue show choir or a similar activity in college. “I can’t imagine my life without a performance element,” he said.

Sabree said the choir groups perform 10 to 12 times outside of competition season; their final performance will be at Firestone Community Learning Center in Akron on May 5. ∞

Eva Morales (r) and Ruby Ungur celebrate
after earning another Grand Champion
designation at one of their four competitions
this season. Photos submitted.

Ty Muehlfeld sings during a more serious
part of the show.

On our cover (photos): Members of the show choir “All Americans,” through ETC Heid’s School of Musical Arts in Akron, celebrate a victory at Northrop Classique in Fort Wayne, Indiana, one of four competitions in which the group earned the highest rank of “Grand Champion.” Photos submitted.