Choir department prepares for Fall Fest

Mia Mulinaro, Dylan Godsave, Jackson Gardner, and Jess Richardson | Contributors

Tonight the Choral Department kicks off the year with the Fall Fest Showcase.

“We practice all the time and we practice really hard. We’re pushed to our limits but as a team I think it brings us closer,” Caela Heisinger, who is a new member of Sound System, said. “I like that part of it: putting everything we have on the stage.”

The stage has been busy every day this week as students prepared for the showcase, including a six-hour rehearsal on Tuesday night.

“It’s always good to see how the groups come together,” junior Phoebe Joubert, who is a part of the Debtones, said. “We practice a lot to make it the best we can.”

The Debtones have been focusing on their sound by practicing in the Fishbowl at the entrance to the Hall of Excellence, which replicates the sound in the auditorium but allows singers to hear themselves better.

“I’m most excited about our song Lift Thine Eyes To The Mountains,” Joubert said. “It’s really pretty and it’s really cool to be able to sing like that.”

The Mendolssohn piece introduces complex harmonies in a classical form, a genre which is new to some members.

“This year we are really focused on trying out new genres and improving our show. We have come a long way from boot camp this summer, and I am excited to see how this year progresses,” choir director Jared Norman said.

CG Students Shoot to Stardom

Jess Richardson | Staff Writer

Seniors Haley Burgh and Wilson Smith are no strangers on the high school stage. As cast members for CG shows and as soloists in the 16-17 Sound System competition show, they received local attention. However, they broadened their audience last summer with professional experiences.

image2Both Smith and Burgh opened for Kyle Dean Massey, a Broadway star, at The Cabaret at the Indiana Landmark Center in Indianapolis.  Massey is known for his roles in Broadway shows, Wicked, Pippin and Next to Normal. He also has a role in the ABC series Nashville.  

Center Grove High School choirs have a partnership with The Cabaret allowing professional singers to perform and work with students in Sound System and Debtones.  

“Being able to open for such a talented performer was such an honor,” Burgh said.

In addition to opening for Massey, Smith also performed a duet with him.

“[Massey]  was not only very talented, but he was extremely kind, personable and humble,” Smith said. “[It was] by far one of the coolest performances I’ve ever done.”

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In leading up to the performance, Smith and Burgh worked with vocal instructors and attended vocal camps including the “American Songbook Competition.”

“Kids from all over the country auditioned for the competition, and Wilson and I were actually selected to be in the top 40 to come for the camp,” Burgh said. “I think I can speak for both of us when I say that it was one of the most fulfilling, life-changing experiences we have ever had. We learned so much about music and our own voices in that week that we will take with us for the rest of our lives.”

In working at the camp and with vocal instructors, both students received advice in picking a song that matched their voice. Burgh sang the song “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar. Smith sang the song “What Do I Need With Love” from Thoroughly Modern Millie

The performance proved to be “a once-in-a-lifetime experience for sure,” Burgh said. “Performing in such an intimate setting was so new and fun for me.”

Burgh plans to pursuing a career in vocal performance and hopes to have a career in performing opera, musical theatre or, perhaps, Broadway.

Smith plans to pursuing a career in either vocal performance, music composition or music education along with a double major or minor in business.

Broadway Masterclass

Written By Taylor Ward

Last year, the CG Choirs went to Broadway. This year, Broadway came to the CG Choirs.

On Friday, Feb. 24, New York actor and musician Kyle Riabko visited Center Grove to conduct a masterclass and Q&A with the students. Riabko kicked off the afternoon by singing a few songs by Burt Bacharach, composer of famous songs such as “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head” and “Close to You.” The Broadway performer accompanied himself on guitar.

The actor and singer’s performance credits are numerous, including a lead role in the original Broadway cast of Spring Awakening, a major role on Broadway in Hair and a recurring appearance on the hit TV show 90210.


Broadway performer visits CG Choir

Riabko was brought in through an organization called The Cabaret. Located in downtown Indianapolis, The Cabaret brings in Broadway stars and working musicians to perform songs and monologues at their venue in the city. Recently, the organization has been seeking to provide local musically-inclined students with an opportunity to meet and learn from real, working show business professionals. Their mission: “to elevate and promote the cabaret art form by presenting the finest in professional cabaret performances and developing the next generation of cabaret artists.”

After singing for the students, Riabko sat back and watched CG Sound System perform a number from their competition show. Once they had finished, he was highly complimentary, saying, “now I understand the wall of trophies.”

A couple of students also performed their own solo songs, including senior Adrianna Goss. Singing “Vanilla Ice Cream” from the musical She Loves Me, Goss said that “it was cool to show him some of the talent that makes up CG choirs.”

The excitement did not come without its nerves, however.

“I was a little nervous because I had seen him in one of my favorite TV shows, 90210,” said Goss.

Mr. Riabko provided plenty of performance advice to the choirs, but perhaps his biggest point to the students was this: “Always be performing. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, keep performing. It’s a gift you have to share with the world.”

Student Arranges Music For CG Choirs For First Time in CG History

By: Taylor Ward

Photography: Noah Barajas

Wilson Smith sings a solo at a choir competition. While Smith has not been able to perform at every show this year, he has found another way to make sure he is involved year-around in his passion.

Wilson Smith sings a solo at a choir show. Smith now works behind the scenes for choir productions to make them the best that they can be.

Many students involved in Center Grove’s performing arts program participate in behind-the-scenes preparation for productions, such as building sets, assembling risers and crafting costumes. But no student has ever helped with the actual creation of the show’s content, like writing scripts or arranging music…until now.


Wilson Smith, a junior, holds the distinction of being the first student at Center Grove to help arrange music for the choral program. Until this year, the sheet music for each song was put together by staff members. Now, Smith assists choir directors Jenn Dice and Jared Norman and the principle accompanist and arranger Greg Sanders with compositions.


“My job is to write the different voice parts for the choir,” Smith said. “I look at the melody line and try to figure out different harmony parts that support the melody line and create one really awesome sound.”


Smith helps arrange music for all of the high school choirs, including competition music, which is kept secret from choir members until the directors decide to reveal it. Despite this special knowledge, he is not involved in song selection.


“I just do what Mr. Sanders and/or Mrs. Dice tells me,” Smith said. 


The process of arranging music is multi-layered, and requires preparation before it can really begin.


“The first step in arranging or rearranging a song is to create a roadmap. Basically, a roadmap is to an arrangement as an outline is to an essay. I try to put all of my ideas onto a piece of paper, organize them, and work from there,” Smith said.


As involved as he is in the process, Smith says that much of the arranging is still done by staff member Greg Sanders.


“I sort of serve as his apprentice,” Smith said. “I still have a lot more to learn about music theory.”


Smith says that his favorite piece to help arrange is Sound System’s second competition number, “The World Turned Upside Down,” a medley of songs from the Tony award winning Best Musical Hamilton.


Smith also holds another special distinction in the choral music program at Center Grove; he is the only student with “perfect pitch.” This allows him to immediately know how each pitch sounds, so he can give starting notes to the choir.

“It definitely makes it easier to arrange, read, and understand music,” Smith said about his ability.


The gift is rare. Some studies show that only one out of every ten thousand people hold the ability to hear pitches without error. Smith uses his gifts to assist the choir directors as best he can.