Fourth Avenue Jazz Company and Charisma Show Choirs Work Through the Norms of a Changing Season


Courtesy of Tyler Hagy

A picture from the last day of Fourth Avenues Jazz Company’s choreography camp back in July.

Rachel Marsh, Photo Editor

2020 does not look anything like any other year, that much is clear. How can school activities go on and continue some normalcy? The City High Music Department answered that question by making the promise to continue practices for show choir no matter if they were online or spaced out in a parking lot. According to the students, that promise means a lot. Getting to the parking lot, or joining the zoom, or going into the school have been the practice options so far. Followed by warming up, dancing or when on zoom, singing.

“I’m really grateful that we got to continue, in spite of the pandemic. I think online is really hard, but I think me and the rest of my group and Charisma would agree that we love show choir, and it’s worth it to do online or in-person with masks on,” Rigby Templeman ‘23 said.

Fourth Avenue Jazz Co. had their annual choreography camp on July 21-25. The entire camp was held in an online format, switching between zoom and videos to review and learn from. In those four days, the group learned the dances to four out of five songs that include dancing. This year the group has six songs total including one ballad. The theme, The Game of Survival was announced in a group zoom in late June. Their selection includes Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, Muse’s Dig Down, and Judy Garland’s Get Happy, among others.

“Going into virtual camp we did not know what to expect. Luckily for us, every student from this program showed with a smile on their face, ready to learn despite the circumstances. It could not have gone better,” Assistant Director, Emma Erner said. “Camp definitely looked different, but I truly believe we produced the results just like we would have in person. That is [a] credit to every member of 4th Ave.”

The audition process was also online back in May. Participants sent in a video for their dance audition and their singing audition. The rosters were released within a week. This year, Fourth Ave has 49 students involved including Mara Maas ‘23 and Ava Cross ‘23. Most sophomore girls stay and participate in a second year in the JV group, Charisma, unless otherwise placed in Fourth Ave. Charisma, the girls only group, participated in the same audition process in May. The group’s theme is travel with songs from Ben Rector and Katy Perry. Mara Maas was stunned when she saw her name on the Fourth Ave. roster.

I knew it was really unlikely that I’d get in and didn’t want to get my hopes up,” Maas said. “When I got the email, I felt like I knew which roster my name was going to be on. When I checked the 4th Ave. list, I was super surprised but really proud, happy, and excited to discover that I had gotten in.”

Fourth Ave. started with in-person practices in the faculty lot. Each student picked a parking spot to dance in, spaced out, and masked. Singing, coming later in the learning process, occurred online in zooms. When the district went online for two weeks, so did the show choirs. They continued their practices, even learning new choreography. The group used the two weeks online to finish their last song.

“This has hopefully helped keep up the momentum of the group. It is most definitely hard to keep spirits high virtually, but as the weeks go on we will find ways to make the most of it,” Erner said.

The staff, in coordination with the district, made the decision in August to not go to any competitions this year. Normally, the group goes to four competitions during the winter months. Mr. Hagy, the director, has stated that he would like to take the group to show exchanges – with only one other group. The group is still deciding what is the best way to perform.

“The conversation about competitions was started by large schools across Iowa. Although not easy, the decision was made with West and Liberty with the safety and health of students, families, and staff at the forefront,” said Erner. “My biggest goal for the group is to produce a show of similar caliber to what we would have put on stage at a competition. We continued with the same show idea we had from the start, and I want to provide the best experience possible to the group.”