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Linn-Mar show choir wins nationals with boundary-pushing performance
‘There’s no rules to whatever we do. We just have to stay under 30 minutes’
MARION — There’s no state tournament for show choir. No weekly rankings or coaches’ polls.
But when you stand on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and accept the trophy for the National Show Choir Grand Champion after earning higher scores than 10 other first-rate groups from around the nation, you know you’ve reached the top.
“Our message to the kids is never about seeking that win, but it’s nice to have the kids be honored in this way,” said Trent Buglewicz, director of Linn-Mar’s 10th Street Edition, which won nationals on Saturday.
The show choir also was recognized for having the best vocals, best choreography and best band.
Tejas Gururaja won Outstanding Male Soloist during the preliminary round and Outstanding Male Performer in the finals. Grant Holloway won Outstanding Male Soloist in the finals. And Kyra Kanz won Outstanding Female Soloist during finals.
This was the first time for Linn-Mar to go to the national competition in recent history, Buglewicz said.
Show choir members climbed aboard two buses early Thursday and drove nearly 10 hours to Nashville, where the competition was held Thursday through Saturday. The Linn-Mar varsity show choir includes 61 singers and dancers as well as 31 band and crew members.
Linn-Mar’s 30-minute show, which Buglewicz created with his wife, Lexi Buglewicz, the group’s choreographer, tells the story of Nicholas, who dies and goes to the afterlife to make a deal with the devil, Iowa Public Radio reported earlier this month in an interview with Linn-Mar and Waukee show choirs.
The 10th Street Edition singers and dancers performed synchronized choreography while singing several songs from the Broadway musical “Hadestown.” The show ends with a rousing “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” with Gururaja playing the fiddle.
The show choirs that performed at nationals this year were a combination of those who do a set of songs — sometimes united by a theme — and those that tell a story, Buglewicz said.
“It’s a good mix in nationals and all over show choir right now,” he said. “There’s no rules to whatever we do. We just have to stay under 30 minutes.”
Show choirs are judged on singing and dancing, but groups across the country are trying new things and setting new precedents for what show choirs can and should do, he said.
“The storytelling is what we really are passionate about in our program,” Buglewicz said.
The 10th Street Edition show was also unique in that most of the girls and boys wore the same costumes — gray suits — rather than suits or dresses that sometimes can make it hard for gender-nonconforming students to find where they feel comfortable.
Buglewicz talks with his students about how they can’t control what other choirs bring to competitions or how the shows will be viewed by judges. Getting to compete at the Grand Ole Opry is the highlight, especially because more than 100 family members also drove down to Nashville to cheer them on, he said.
As the buses returned home Sunday night, parents, siblings, neighbors and friends lined 10th Street holding signs and shouting for the choir. Just like their very own Super Bowl parade.
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