You may not know this, but one of the largest and best of its kind arts programs is right here in Waconia. Maybe you’ve never been to a show choir event, but you watched the television show Glee. That gives you an idea of what’s involved in show choir (without all the drama), but not the whole picture. If you’ve never seen the Waconia Show Choirs perform, you’re missing out.
Started by director Aaron Olson in 1998, the Waconia Show Choir has become one of the most respected and well-known high school arts programs in the country. Show choir involves a group of lively and talented kids singing and dancing to a well-choreographed routine. What many people don’t realize is that the music the students are performing to is from a live band behind the stage, also completely comprised of students. They play everything from piano and electric guitar to drums and horns. The collective talent of these kids is amazing to see.
Make no mistake; these are kids, but this is no amateur-level performance. The show is a result of countless hours of hard work and is highly competitive. The kids spend months rehearsing and perfecting their show, then compete against other show choirs at various competitions across the Midwest. Historically, Waconia has won many first place trophies and is highly regarded as one of the top show choirs in the United States.
Olson says that while trophies are nice, they’re not the reason he does it. In fact, he doesn’t even keep track of their winning record.
“Trophies are fun for a few hours,” Olson says. “But the experience, friendship, and memories are what we value most.”
Sara Swoboda, Waconia Choir Boosters president, emphasizes how important this program is to the kids, parents, and members of the community.
“This program offers an option in the arts for kids who aren’t passionate about sports,” says Swoboda. “It gives students an opportunity to showcase a different skill set than many other high school programs. These kids represent Waconia in such a positive light with their respect to all other show choir teams and confidence in themselves.”
This year, there are 113 high school kids in the program and 60 in the middle school program. There are 28 kids in the band. The middle school program does not compete, but gives younger kids a taste of what it’s like to perform on stage in front of an audience while singing and dancing in a choreographed routine. Both the junior varsity level (The Current) and the varsity level (Power Company) hold tryouts in the spring of each year. Varsity-level practices every weekday from October through their last performance in March.
The experience and camaraderie these kids share goes with them far beyond high school.
Although some of the kids continue with a music career, involvement in the program benefits them going into any profession. Jenn Bostic is a former student who’s now a country and Christian singer and songwriter. AnnMarie Powers has performed with the Radio City Rockettes and continues to entertain internationally. Swoboda says the experience in show choir provides kids a hard work ethic, integrity, teamwork, and “a ton of pride.”
Alumni students and parents come back year after year to watch the next generation of show choir students perform. It’s something that sticks with them far beyond their time in the program. There are even parents whose children graduated a decade ago who still volunteer at events or behind the scenes. It seems the program touches the parents as much as the kids.
Although the program took a small hit with participation numbers during the pandemic, Olson has strong hopes for the future.
“We’re working hard to rebuild our numbers.” Olson says. “I’m hopeful we can continue to see more and more students interested in participating. The foundation is in place for a strong program well into the future.”
Where else can you see professional entertainment at a budget-friendly price? You can catch their performances at a couple of upcoming events. There’s still time to get tickets for Star Power February 18, which is Waconia’s competition, hosting show choirs from several states. Quite possibly the most exciting event of the year is the Spectacular March 3rd and 4th at Waconia High School Performing Arts Center. Here you can see all the Waconia show choirs perform, along with students showcasing their talent by performing solo and ensemble acts. For tickets, go to https://waconiachoirs.org/events.