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Mitchell celebrates 30 years of show choir at Corn Palace event

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Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Thirty years ago, a man named Jeff Gemar started something in Mitchell: Show choir.

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“The term show choir, and what we know as show choir today, came here in 1984 with Jeff Gemar,” said MHS Vocal Director Chris Miller.

Miller, also the current show choir director, said Gemar led the group from 1984 through 2000. As a 1995 graduate of MHS and show choir alumnus, Miller said his introduction to vocal music was when he first had “this awesome teacher, Mr. Gemar.”

“He was a remarkable influence on me, and got me really excited about vocal music, because the first time I ever did vocal music was my freshman year of high school,” Miller said, noting he didn’t start in junior high or elementary choirs like many students. “He was just an overall great guy, whom I respected and admired so much. So much so, that I decided to continue in music when I went to college.”

Though not right away, that eventually let to his current status as a choir director, which he described as his calling. And that’s just one former student.

Saturday, about 70 of those alumni are returning to Mitchell, a 30th anniversary reunion as part of the Show Choir Classic at the Corn Palace.

Ben Cahoy, a 2008 MHS graduate and four-year show choir alumnus, said the idea for this reunion was hatched about a year ago. After getting the green light from current MHS Vocal Director Chris Miller, Cahoy and two other show choir alumni, Melissa Temple (another 2008 graduate) and Lacey Musick (2001) began planning an event in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of show choir in Mitchell.

“It’s the first time in the total 30-year history as far as I know that we’ve ever done an alumni show, so it’s pretty exciting,” Cahoy said, adding they hope this will happen about every five years.

Cahoy, who now lives in Sioux Falls, said he expected maybe 30 to 50 people to join. As of Thursday, about 70 graduates from 1987 to 2013 -- from as far away as Florida -- said they would be there.

They plan to set up camp at the high school, and learn two songs on the day of the performance -- one singing and dancing number and one ballad -- while the high school show choirs compete at the Corn Palace. It’s a quick turnaround, but Cahoy said that’s OK.

“It’s all about fun. The whole point of it is to get people together again,” he said. “We all only had the experience in high school … this is kind of exciting to be able to do it with the almost the entire history of the group.”

The alumni will perform toward the end of finals, the second-to-last group of the day.

Saturday’s competition includes groups from schools across South Dakota and even one from Omaha, Neb. The first performance is by Mitchell Maximum Velocity, Mitchell Middle School’s show choir, at 8:50 a.m. Except for a lunch break schedule from noon to 1 p.m., performances will continue through the day until about 4 p.m. Finals start at 6 p.m., with Friend de Coup’s exhibition -- or noncompetitive -- performance as the last one of the classic.

For an all-day pass, tickets are $15 for adults or $10 for K-12 students. To attend just the finals, tickets are $10 for adults or $8 for K-12 students. All tickets are available at the door, and proceeds are a fundraiser for the show choir.

“I just encourage people to come and support the history of the group and current members and keep the tradition alive,” Cahoy said. “We’re very fortunate to have a strong program in our town.”

If you go: For an all-day pass to the Show Choir Classic at the Corn Palace, tickets are $15 for adults, or $10 for K-12 students. To attend just the finals, tickets are $10 for adults or $8 for K-12 students. All tickets are available at the door, and proceeds are a fundraiser for the show choir.

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