In Focus
Communication, Literature & Arts


In the Spotlight:

A New Campus Show Choir

MMU show choir performance
By Leah Grout Garris

Although Iowa is known for producing top show choirs, these types of music ensembles are rarely found at the college level.


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Mount Mercy is now one of the few U.S. higher-education institutions with a show choir of its own. Bringing a show choir to campus provides students with one-of-a-kind performance experience and also creates unique recruiting opportunities. “We’re one of a handful of universities and colleges that now has a show choir supported by full-time staff,” says Kent Keating, show choir director. He estimates that only three or four other higher-education institutions in the Midwest offer show choir at this level.

After teaching music in public schools for more than 35 years, Keating was brought on board in 2016 to launch Mount Mercy’s show choir. “We’re already getting great, five-star students who joined us this year and are coming back next year,” he says. “They sing really well together and are a marvelous group.”

Some students participate for credit while others participate just for fun. With 39 singers, the co-ed ensemble currently rehearses once per week as a full group, and a second time each week with a partial group.

Scholarships ranging from $1,500 to $4,000 are available for show choir participation; students don’t need to be music majors to qualify. The group features performers across several academic departments, including business and nursing. “That’s one of the cool things about this show choir,” says Lauren Lauterwasser ’21. “It brings together all kinds of people, regardless of whether or not they’ve been in show choir before.”

McAuley Theater: Better Than Ever

To give Mount Mercy’s music ensembles a home they can be proud of, Mount Mercy’s McAuley Theater was recently updated.

An efficient new heating and cooling system was installed to keep performers and audience members comfortable, while new paint and other interior fixes improved and unified the look of the space, which seats 300+.

Davis Churchman ’21 feels the same way about having a show choir at Mount Mercy. “Bringing a show choir to campus provides a different outlet for students and musicians to be part of a team-like atmosphere,” he says. “Being part of something bigger than yourself is a very special thing.”

Alec DeCapria ’21 joined show choir this year because he wanted to be involved in a program not often seen at the collegiate level. “I wanted to experience what it was like to sing in show choir, so I took the chance to do it the second I saw it,” he says. “In high school, I played in the show choir band, but never got the chance to dance or sing.”

By partnering with local organizations and music professionals like Mike Weaver, a well-known choreographer, Keating was able to design a full show choir set for the 2017–18 school year—but it wasn’t easy.

MMU MUSIC ENSEMBLES

VOCAL

Chamber/Jazz Singers
Liturgical Singers
Show Choir
University Choir

INSTRUMENTAL

Chamber Ensembles
Jazz Band
Pep Band
University Band

“The group was full of strangers,” says Churchman, “and a lot of freshman who didn’t know each other.” He still remembers the choir’s first choreography lesson, and seeing the looks on everyone’s faces when they realized how fast-paced and challenging the choreography would be. As the year went on, however, he says everyone came together, forming close bonds and joking about the group’s growing pains.


“We’re one of a handful of universities and colleges that now has a show choir supported by full-time staff,” says Kent Keating, show choir director.


The ensemble’s first performance was on March 3 at the 34th annual Jefferson Show Choir Invitational, where they performed selections from West Side Story, Hairspray, and La La Land. “That was my first real experience performing under the lights in a show choir,” says DeCapria. “It was by far one of the loudest crowds I’ve ever heard during a performance—thousands of people were there. We left the stage extremely proud of the show we put on.”

The show choir’s first full season concluded with a Jazz, Java & Jive performance on campus in early May, as well as a few performances at local high schools in the Cedar Rapids area.

“The addition of show choir is drawing people to Mount Mercy,” says DeCapria. “Our numbers in the music program are skyrocketing and continue to climb every year. I, along with many others, came to Mount Mercy because of the work that Mr. Keating and Mr. Stickney, Mount Mercy’s band director, are doing.”

Students, faculty, and staff are excited to see what the next school year will bring for the group. “We’ll be able to start with a choreographer much sooner this fall, which means we’ll be ready to perform earlier,” says Keating. “Our plan is to perform in as many contests as we can—at least six or seven in the area.”

By continuing to expand performance options on campus, students are showing more interest in participating in music ensembles. “I see a bright future for this department and this program,” says Lauterwasser. “I can’t wait to see where our show choir is in four years!” ■

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Name our Show Choir!

Mount Mercy’s show choir needs a name—and we want to hear from you!

Share your creative ideas with us at magazine@mtmercy.edu, and we may end up using your suggestion!

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