When you think about high school singing groups, visions of cumberbunds and risers may come to mind. You might picture kids singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” while lined up stiffly on stage with a choir director at the piano. Centerville High School’s audition-only a cappella group, Forte A Cappella couldn’t be further from these impressions. Just watch their Evolution of Madonna video on YouTube that has already accumulated 11,000 views. With the vocal talent, musical arrangement, and choreography you could mistake their video for a clip from the TV show Glee.
Twelve years ago, outgoing director Ben Spalding turned Forte exclusively a cappella and from there they hit the ground running. The group started recording a minimum of one album per year and even recorded three albums of all-original music by the students. Forte competed every other year in the International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA) and was the national runner-up four times and crowned the winner in 2016. The group started filming music videos as well, and now films them each and every year.
We sat down with Kelly Korpusik, incoming director of the group for the 2022-2023 school year and a few current and former Forte members to learn more about how the magic happens. Kelly is taking over for Ben who after building this amazing program is pursuing a new venture. When Kelly started teaching private voice lessons at Centerville High School back in 2015 she had a front row seat to everything that the group was accomplishing.
As Ben continued to grow the choir program, there became a need for a supplemental position and Kelly was offered the role. “Every single year the goal is to make the current year better than the one prior. You always have to look to improve in order to stay hungry and keep the program performing at an optimal level,” explains Kelly about how Forte consistently pushes the limits of what a high school a cappella group can achieve.
Most recently the group performed as a part of the top 10 a cappella groups in the country at the National A Cappella Convention in Orlando. Forte was invited to close out the top 10 showcase and was met with a standing ovation by the crowd. Class of 2022 graduate Danielle MacConnell recalls that moment as her fondest memory of working with the group: “As we ended our set, everyone in the room leapt onto their feet to give us a standing ovation. All of us in Forte had been working so hard toward this performance and the feedback was indescribable.”
These students are committed to the program and to say that they work hard would be an understatement. Incoming senior Sam McClain joined the group because he loves a challenge. Sam talks about how being a part of Forte has been “an amazing addition” to his high school experience.
Despite the hard work involved, Sam tells us how ending his day with his Forte class gave him “a great outlet to express myself and decompress after five other periods.” Joel Korpusik, Kelly’s son, joined the group as a sophomore and echoes Sam’s sentiment, “Being in Forte has made school life 100 times better...with Forte I’m always excited to head to school.”
Class of 2022 graduate Jack Cawthon joined Forte for the opportunities. He says that, “Forte gets to work with giant names in the a cappella community that few other groups get the luxury of meeting.” Forte recorded three videos this past school year in a partnership with producer Shams Ahmed. Shams owns the group AcaPop with Grammy winners Ben Bram, arranger for Pentatonix, and Scott Hoying, lead singer for Pentatonix. This kind of recognition draws the attention of people from around the world. Forte continues to push the envelope for contemporary a cappella each and every year.
It’s clear that the leadership from Ben Spalding and Kelly Korpusik has been instrumental in not only making Forte the standard for excellence in high school a cappella groups, but also a group that the students enjoy and benefit from being involved in.
Kelly plans to keep it that way saying that one of her main goals for the 2022-2023 school year is to make her new role a smooth transition for the students. She shares, “Change can be hard and I want the kids to be excited and confident that the excellence and fun that the choir program currently offers will remain the same.”
Kelly says her additional goals for the upcoming school year are to, “Continue to record new tracks, make new videos and look for new ways to collaborate with others in the industry.” The community can look forward to more great things from Forte A Cappella next year and for years to come. For more information about Forte, visit ForteACappella.com.