by Morgan Smith
Independence and Providence high school choirs will be vying for attention from the community when they compete on Saturday, April 21 in the third annual My School Rocks fundraising competition.
The schools will join six other area high schools – from Concord, Mooresville and South Carolina – in a competition to support WTVI, a public television station that covers the central Carolinas and has a mix of programs aimed to inform, educate and promote citizenship. But the question isn’t which choir is the best; rather which choir can raise the most money.
The fundraiser is a pledge-drive, where each school will perform two songs live at the station and whoever can raise the most amount of money for WTVI in the name of their school wins prize money of their own.
Forty-three students from Providence High School’s choir are participating in the competition for the first time and choir director Terri Setzer said, if her students can spread the word, she thinks they have a great chance of taking home the grand prize of $5,000.
“We have more in our high school than most schools – around 2,400 students – if we can just get people at our school to support us, we’ll be good,” Setzer said.
At Independence, choir teacher Kristine Neale and her 25 students are veterans of the competition. They’ve competed in the show every year since it started three years ago, but have never walked away with the grand prize. This year Neale thinks they might have a pretty good chance, not only because the group will actually perform live on TV, something the group hasn’t had the chance to do in previous years, but also because Neale said the group’s performances will be more upbeat.
“We’re doing two pop pieces from the (19)70s,” Neale said. “The first year we did really serious classical music and all the other schools did very upbeat songs.” So this year, the group is taking a guitar, a drum and maybe some tambourines. “We’re going to have a good time.”
And both schools said they could use the money.
Setzer said most funding for the Providence choir program, which serves around 350 students, comes from fundraisers and great parent support. Just this past year, the school received less than $1 per choir student from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which in recent years cut its arts budget.
“We have so many needs … a lot of people think we have everything, but we’re taking a really big trip next year, we have to pay for new music or any travel, whether it be to a local middle school or retirement home,” Setzer said, adding that if the group wins the money, most would go toward transforming the classroom and maybe adding a new projector, classroom laptop and updated software.
“I’m sure CMS is giving what they can give, but it’s just a small token,” Setzer said. “I know times are tough, but we really do have to work really hard to generate funds.”
The same is the case for Neale and the Independence choir, who could really use a new piano, cover and stand, or maybe even to create scholarship money for competitions and trips the group goes on every year.
“It’s pretty common for choirs to participate in festivals where they are rated and judged,” Neale said, “but hardly ever (do they compete) for money. The fact that money is involved is just icing on the cake.”
And that’s why WTVI focused on high school choirs for their program. Jere S. Thomas, the coordinator for the drive, said the station started the program three years ago not only to benefit WTVI but also to help highlight and promote high school choirs when times were especially tough financially.
“Because of budget cuts from school systems, the choir programs were getting cut,” Thomas said. With this program, “everybody wins. They can perform and we can give money to their program.”
Setzer, Neale and Thomas all say the drive is a great opportunity for students to perform in a different medium than what they’re used to.
“It’s so important to keep live performance healthy and fresh,” Setzer said about the chance to perform in a studio. “With the age of technology … we don’t want to let that side of the performing industry die out. What live performance does for a student’s confidence – it just has so many positive influences across the board.”
This year, schools that receive second and third place also will have the chance to take home prize money: $1,500 for second and $1,000 for third. Each school will perform two songs, Saturday night, starting at 7 p.m. The show will kick-off with Independence High and end with Providence, and both need all the community support they can get. People can donate money to WTVI in the name of their favorite school through the phone, donations online or through text. Rules and instructions will be explained at the beginning of the show.
“No matter what happens, it’s a lot of fun,” Neale said. “It’s an opportunity for the community to support WTVI and an opportunity for the community to support the schools.”
If you’re not in the WTVI viewing area, you can watch a live stream of the show online at www.wtvi.org. Other schools participating are Andrew Jackson High in Kershaw, S.C., Concord High in Concord, Lake Norman High in Mooresville, and Northwestern, Rock Hill and South Pointe high schools in Rock Hill, S.C.