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West Ishpeming students put on variety performance with the help of international choir

October 10, 2010
By JOHANNA BOYLE Journal Ishpeming Bureau

ISHPEMING - Singing, break dancing, comedy, poetry, solos, group numbers -almost 150 students at the NICE Community Schools had just three days to put together a variety show performance, held Tuesday evening.

For the Westwood High School and Aspen Ridge Middle and Elementary school students, the highlight of the week wasn't the performance, but getting to work and rehearse with an internationally-touring show choir called the Young Americans.

"They (the Young Americans) do all the teaching of the singing and choreography," said Westwood choral teacher Tony Beacco. "It was unbelievable the number of songs they learned."

Article Photos

Westwood High School guys learn to break dance with the Young Americans. Students at the Westwood High School and Aspen Ridge Middle and Elementary schools got the chance to work with an internationally touring choir of performers known as the Young Americans this week. The group had three days to prepare for a two-act variety concert, which included singing, dancing, poetry and art. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)

Tuesday's performance included two acts, with the Young Americans performing first and the NICE students joining in for the second act.

"I thought it was amazing the energy they had," said Westwood senior Chandra Hintsala, 17.

Junior Andrew LeSage, 17, agreed.

"A lot of movement, high energy singing. They're teaching us different styles of singing," he said.

A touring show choir, the Young Americans includes 50 performers, most of whom are in their late teens or early twenties. The group is traveling around the Midwest this fall, holding similar workshops and performances in the schools they visit.

At each school, the Young Americans get three days of rehearsals and special workshops to get the students ready for a special variety performance.

Split into age groups, the students in third grade through high school learned special numbers for their age as well as group numbers.

For the NICE students, working with the Young Americans meant experiencing new forms of singing and dance.

"They've been doing a lot to get us to explore our creativity," LeSage said. "It's fast paced, but they're so encouraging."

During the performance, the NICE students, who signed up to participate in the workshops and performances, got to try out break-dancing, hip hop and other forms of dance.

"It's a variety show," said Young Americans stage manager Zac Leger. "We do every style of music from classical to hip hop.

"Our goal is to boost self confidence in kids."

Another goal of the group is to help ensure music education stays a part of the school curriculum.

This year a new portion of the show included local students reading poetry they have written and doing live drawings on stage, all to get kids to be creative.

"Nothing's bad, nothings' wrong or right," Leger said. "We're not school. We just let them be free."

Despite only having three days to put the two-act performance together, the NICE students said they enjoyed working with the Young Americans on their first trip to the Upper Peninsula.

"They work with you," Hintsala said. "I didn't think I could do the dance."

LeSage agreed.

"At first we were wall worried about looking stupid," he said. "I learned to step outside of my comfort zone a bit. I'm learning what I can do."

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is



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