Oak Harbor High School choir becomes a gleeful experience

Oak Harbor seniors and show choir students Jemily Greger, left, Ryan Gerth and Ben Nelson - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor seniors and show choir students Jemily Greger, left, Ryan Gerth and Ben Nelson
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

Oak Harbor’s new show choir, inspired by Fox’s hit show “Glee,” has managed to nab media attention despite having no association with a crazed cheer coach or pregnancy drama.

Since the class was proposed last year, choir director Darren McCoy said he’s been contacted by reporters from Fox, “Seattle Metropolitan” magazine and National Public Radio who were all interested in hearing about the program.

Show choir was added as an elective this fall after McCoy petitioned the school board last February. McCoy wanted a medium to combine singing and dancing and thought the combination would attract younger students to choir.

He was right.

Unlike “Glee” which has about 13 stars, McCoy’s class has nearly 50 kids. The class is during zero period, and though students receive regular credit for attending, they have to be at school by 6:45 a.m., a catch most surprisingly don’t seem to mind.

“Yeah it’s hard to get up early, but in the long-term it’ll be worth it,” junior Allison Kennedy said. “We’re doing something we love with people we love.”

Currently, the students are practicing an African piece and a number from the Whidbey Playhouse’s “Chicago” choreographed by K. Sandy O’Brien.

McCoy’s enthusiasm keeps them coming back to rehearsals, and they don’t hesitate to compliment his comedic, yet effective, teaching style.

“If it’s not big, it’s boring,” McCoy called to the class after watching a run through of the African song. “I need you to have a bit more abandonment, more reckless abandonment!”

The students happily responded to his request.

“I didn’t think it was possible for him to have more energy than last year,” senior Ryan Gerth said.

Gerth said McCoy creates a non-threatening, fun learning environment and it’s paying off.

“It can be a bit chaotic sometimes,” Gerth said, “but as soon as we all get in the flow of things it’s amazing.”

Senior Jemily Greger added that the difficult part for students isn’t learning the choreography, it’s selling it.

McCoy said he hopes to make show choir Oak Harbor’s premiere group and wants the kids to perform at community shows and recruiting events for the middle and elementary schools. He said he’d like to be able to enter the choir in competitions, but fears funding may be an issue.

“These kids are going to work so hard, but they have no money,” McCoy said. “A show choir has expenses I don’t know we’ll be able to meet.” Competitions come with not only travel expenses, but costs for costumes, sheet music and lighting work.

But with or without funding, McCoy plans to build a strong program at the high school. Right now he’s focusing on getting the students physically in shape and coaxing them to learn their music.

McCoy said he looks forward to working with this year’s freshmen and watching their talent thrive as they continue to build their skills from year to year. As for songs, McCoy wants to keep it interesting and throw a variety of genres at the kids.

“They like to be challenged,” McCoy said. “It tells them they’re doing something worthwhile.”

The show choir’s first performance will be Thursday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. at the high school.

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