BY CAROL ROEHM
Danville High School’s show choir members gave it their all in Hollywood this weekend. They not only brought home some rather lofty honors, but also memories to last a lifetime.
DHS’ mixed show choir, Delegation, and the all-female group, Contemporaires, finished as first runners-up in their respective divisions during the weekend at the FAME Hollywood Show Choir Championship Series in Los Angeles.
Their first runner-up placements earned the Contemporaires and Delegation a chance to compete against the best show choirs in the nation during next month’s National Show Choir Competition in Chicago.
The top groups from all of the qualifying regional events — including Hollywood, Orlando, New York, Chicago and Branson, Mo. — receive a bid to compete at the national competition.
“They have six qualifying events, and the top three mixed groups and the two all-female groups at each event advance to the nationals,” said Kassy Krause, director of choral activities at DHS.
The Chicago competition will take place at the Arie Crown Theatre on April 26 and 27.
In addition to the first runner-up finishes, DHS senior Cheyann Cota from Delegation was named the competition’s top female performer and was honored as Best Female Stage Presence of the Day.
DHS junior Christian Cunningham was named the top male performer and earned the Best Male Stage Presence Award at the competition.
Both Cota and Cunningham earned $10,000 scholarships to Gillette College, a two-year community college in Wyoming, for their performances.
“It’s pretty rare and unlikely they would pick two from the same school,” Krause said of the stage presence awards.
“They just had their eye on them,” she said of Cheyann and Christian. “It’s a huge honor.”
Cheyann said that when she received the top female performer honor, “it made me drop to my knees.”
“It was so awesome. I’m so thankful,” she said. She also didn’t know that the honor came with a scholarship.
“That was so random. I didn’t know I was getting a scholarship,” said Cheyann, who is considering majoring in nursing and minoring in music. “I was thinking of going to DACC, but I’m going to try and audition for Gillette College.”
Cheyann said the best part of the trip was performing but also bonding with the other show choir members.
“The trip was just amazing,” she said. “We were like family. My whole group was cheering for me.”
Cheyann’s mother and grandmother also came along on the trip and watched the competition.
“They were crying along with me,” she said.
Cheyann also gave high marks to Krause.
“She’s changed our view,” she said. “She’s a role model, and I want to be like her when I get older.”
Christian also had praise for Krause.
“She has really helped the music program advance even more. She’s great at what she does.”
He said the Danville students “had a great time” in Los Angeles.
“We saw some famous people like Mario Lopez and DJ DeRay Davis,” he said.
“It was pretty great. It was somewhere where I could see myself living and working in the future,” he said.
Christian, who already has had a brush with fame and TV exposure on the Kathie Lee and Hoda show, still was humbled when he won the top male performer honor.
“I was most definitely shocked. It was a big deal for me,” he said.
He also added the Gillette College scholarship offer with another scholarship to Millikin University in Decatur he won at a show choir camp. Christian said he would like to attend Belmont University in Nashville someday.
“I believe in trying to be the best you can be,” he said. “I’ve been blessed. Whatever God wants me to be, I’ll be.”
At the Hollywood competition, Delegation also was named the best tech crew award.
The group of 115 DHS show choir members, which included Delegation, Contemporaires, combo and crew, headed to Hollywood on Thursday and returned Sunday.
“We competed on Saturday, and it was the best day,” Krause said.
Krause said it was her idea to enter Danville’s show choirs in a national competition.
“When I was in high school we traveled all over,” she said. “I gained so much on those trips. It’s important to get them out of their comfort zone.
“It also gave them something to work for, and they worked so hard,” she added. “They’re a completely different group now.”
When the show choir members returned to school on Monday, Krause said she asked the students to write a trip reflection paper.
“Just listening to the kids and what it meant to them … for many of them, it was their first time being on a plane, the first time they’ve seen Disneyland, and the first time they’ve seen the ocean,” she said.
Krause said the trip and how well the students did in a national competition has given them newfound confidence and a source of pride.
“I already knew there was potential here, but they didn’t see it in themselves,” she said. “They think they’re from Danville and they can’t compete against suburban schools or schools out in California.
“But they’re so genuine; everyone falls in love with them when they’re on the stage.
“We were seven points away from winning the whole thing,” she added. “They can hang with the big dogs, and they make us so proud.”
Krause acknowledged that it was an expensive trip, but that the community support was overwhelming.
“I didn’t want to go if I couldn’t have every single kid go,” she said. “The community support was awesome.”