Seniors ready to shine at ‘Dance’

Jazz band, Showstoppers gear up for last major show
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Seniors in the Shawano Community High School music program have been waiting four years to step into the spotlight, and they’ll have their chance this week at the annual Last Dance.

The school’s jazz band and Showstoppers choir will perform more than two hours of beloved classics and some modern tunes as guests dine on stage on desserts provided by Fannita’s Bakery.

This year’s show is expected to be one of the best since the Last Dance debuted in 2005, according to band director Christopher Kent. One reason is that the selection of music includes some heavy hitters, including songs from Chicago, Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington.

“We have Earth, Wind and Fire tossed in there with ‘September,’” Kent said. “I don’t think I’ve ever done multiple Chicago tunes with Earth, Wind and Fire in the same set, never mind three Glenn Miller tunes, two Duke Ellington tunes and, oh, just for fun I’ll throw ‘Free Bird’ (by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant) in.”

The second reason that this year’s show should be special is the current batch of seniors. Kent noted that all of his seniors perform well, but this year’s group seems to understand the education side of the music program, which, he explained, meant the students poured their heart and soul into their music every time, even when it wasn’t for a competition or a show.

“They’re very hardworking. The leadership is excellent,” Kent said. “We did things this year that I’ve wanted to do that we haven’t been able to do.”

There are no “giveaway” songs in the show, Kent noted, meaning songs the band and choir members can just perform halfheartedly. During rehearsals, Kent repeatedly tells his band that it’s important for the show to be better than a run-of-the-mill high school band concert.

“These tunes are all very difficult,” he said. “I am never easy on them. They want to do these songs, but they can’t go brain dead.”

The seniors will shine through a variety of solos. Grace Jones will perform a clarinet solo to Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade,” while her sister, Emily, will perform on the trombone for “The Way We Were.” On the choir side, Ryan Steffen will sing Marc Blitzstein’s “Mack the Knife,” and Georgi Ritter plans to sing an original song she wrote.

“Last Dance is all about the seniors. It’s their last gig (as high school students),” Kent said.

This will be the first year Last Dance has gone on without Jonathon Kent, who has been the choir director for many years but had to leave earlier in the school year due to health issues. Nathan Falk, the auditorium manager, has taken on the duties of directing the choir.

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: Last Dance

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: Auditorium, Shawano Community High School, 220 County Road B, Shawano

ADMISSION: $10 if tickets are purchased in advance, $15 at the door if seating is still available. Tickets may be purchased at the SCHS office and Charlie’s County Market.