Zionsville Choirs Light Up Nashville Heart of America StageJef Furr
The Zionsville High School (IN) choirs loaded charter buses and headed south to Nashville, TN, for the Heart of America Championship. Not only would they find great success competitively, but they also enjoyed many sights and educational adventures on their trip. Enjoy this iconic Nashville choir trip with Zionsville.
Under the direction of Deana Broge and Sam Chenoweth, both Royalaires and Choralaires had prepared since summer for local contests and a weekend on a national stage. They typically travel to a destination every two years.
Broge said, “Zionsville Show Choirs have used the model of every other year to travel and take a larger trip. The last three trips have been at HOA events (Nashville, Kansas City, and Nashville). I don’t necessarily see this model changing, but we always pitch our travel ideas to the ZSI board, and then the parent body votes to accept or decline.”
After an early Thursday morning departure and stop for lunch, the group arrived in Nashville, TN, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. The $37 million facility features over 40,000 square feet of exhibit space. Elvis’ gold-encrusted Cadillac and Webb Pierce’s cowboy-themed convertible flank the gateway to a spacious theater featuring early radio and television broadcasts. An enormous two-story wall displays every gold and platinum record to ever make the country charts. The museum opened in 2001 in the heart of downtown Nashville’s entertainment district.
The group made their way to check-in at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Situated in the heart of Nashville, this luxury hotel allows you to hit all the high notes of Music City both in the area and under one roof. SoundWaves, an upscale water experience featuring four acres of combined indoor and outdoor water attractions is open to overnight package guests. Catch a show at Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium, then return to nine acres of lush indoor gardens and cascading waterfalls. The resort also offers a full-service spa for a more relaxing way to unwind. The group enjoyed dinner at Opry Mills. Shortly after dinner, they met for rehearsal in one of the hotel ballrooms before heading off to bed.
The next morning came early with a quick breakfast at the hotel. After another ballroom rehearsal, they traveled to the Nashville Farmers Market for lunch. The Market House features 20 locally-owned shops and restaurants offering cuisines that span the globe — from Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas and gyro sandwiches to Jamaican jerk chicken and Korean bibimbap. It also houses the Grow Local Kitchen, a commercial kitchen designed to incubate and support start-up food entrepreneurs and provide programming space for culinary classes and workshops.
After a delicious farm to table lunch, it was time to get back to learning as they arrived at Vanderbilt University for workshops with two choral directors. They participated in a choral workshop with Dr. Tucker Biddlecombe, Director of Choirs and a Jazz Workshop Experience with Dr. Ryan Middagh, Director of Jazz Studies.
Chenoweth said, “My favorite part of the trip was our clinic with the staff at Vanderbilt University. The students were thrilled to work with them and it was encouraging for them to receive positive feedback from esteemed professors.” “Dr. Biddlecombe was professional, relatable, and fun. I know the students enjoyed this piece of the trip,” said Broge.
The students and chaperones loaded the buses and returned to the hotel to freshen up for a big night of dancing at The Nashville Wildhorse Saloon. From great cuisine and contemporary country music to nightly dance lessons and national TV tapings, you just never know what will be happening when you arrive for your dining and entertainment experiences.
Many other groups were also at the Wildhorse, allowing the Zionsville students to mix and mingle with peers and competitors alike. At the Wildhorse Saloon, their vision is to be THE Nashville experience. They are a true-to-their roots restaurant with downtown’s largest dance floor and an unparalleled stage for live entertainment. It is Nashville’s most iconic destination, providing all the city has to offer in one place and is a must for any Nashville choir trip.
After a quick meeting back at the hotel, it was time for rest in preparation for the Heart of America Competition prelims.
After breakfast, the groups dressed and prepared for competition. The Choralaires were up first in preliminary competition and gave a wonderful performance on the HOA stage.
Heart of America is dedicated to providing an encouraging and professional environment in which students of all ages can perform for peers and supporters while being evaluated and ranked for competitive purposes. These experiences will better prepare young adult participants to be fearless and self-confident while they emerge as leaders in our world.
A few hours later, Royalaires took the stage by storm with another amazing performance. During prelims, the groups were given time to watch other groups perform. “I really enjoy giving students the chance to see other ensembles. The trip to Nashville allowed the students to see groups from both coasts and down south, all of which interpret show choir differently than Indiana does,” said Chenoweth.
Although competition is a large part of the show choir season, gaining an appreciation and understanding of other groups and styles is beneficial. Broge said, “Traveling outside of Indiana gives our students the opportunities to see schools that we do not typically see, especially when we travel to a national level competition like HOA events. Yes, we have run into some Indiana schools when we plan HOA trips, but it definitely widens the scope and gives our students opportunities to meet and see a more broad, diverse look into the world of show choir.”
Both groups advanced to finals and, in finals, both were named champion of their divisions with Royalaires being named Grand Champion of the event. After the awards ceremony and plenty of congratulations from all attendees, the group retired to the hotel and much needed rest.
Sunday morning included check out and a celebration breakfast at Rainforest Café. The group enjoyed a WILD meal under a jungle canopy as the rumble of tropical thunderstorms, animated wildlife, and a spectacular fiber-optic starscape made for a unique dining experience.
Traveling back to Indiana after a memorable Nashville choir trip, Zionsville stopped once for a quick lunch and arrived back at the high school late afternoon to a group of screaming fans and parents.
Shorter trips with many working parts can be very challenging keeping the group organized. MTC Tour Director extraordinaire Chuck Kubly kept everyone informed and on time. “Chuck Kubly and I go way back,” said Broge. “He was my HS band (color guard) director and I taught with him at Twin Lakes HS for six years. I trust him completely and he has enjoyed getting to know the students at Zionsville, through MTC. He is also prepared, logical, and can troubleshoot with the best of them.” “Chuck was awesome! He was so knowledgeable and helpful throughout the weekend and we were lucky to have him helping with so many logistics. It really took a lot off of my plate compared to previous trips,” said Chenoweth.
A choir trip to the Music City, coupled with a nationally recognized contest is both rewarding and educational for all involved. Heart of America also offers competitions in Kansas City, Orlando and also New York City.