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Tarpon Springs show choir heads to nationals today

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Published:   |   Updated: April 3, 2013 at 07:28 AM
TARPON SPRINGS -

From wrestling to track to football, 17-year-old Connor Menendez is on the roster of almost every sports team at Tarpon Springs High School.

But his favorite activity and the one that makes him the most nervous is singing and dancing in Syndicated Sound, the school's show choir.

“At first, my teammates kind of ragged me about it, but now that they've seen the shows they think it's cool, they respect it,” said the junior. “It's really helped me open up to people, and we have the reputation of being winners. I never realized I would love this so much.”

Syndicated Sound and the school's girls-only show choir is heading to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville today to compete against the best in the nation in the Show choir Nationals Competition. Tarpon Springs High is one of only 10 schools invited to participate and the only one from Florida.

The group has only been invited to the competition once before, in 2006, and came in fifth place. A win would be huge, said choir director Chuck Cheeseman. But just receiving an invitation to compete is an honor in itself. He's taught show choirs at Tarpon Springs High for 33 years, even directing the children of his former students, but the competition still makes him nervous.

“In the whole time I've been here the kids really haven't changed a whole lot. I'm still blown away by how good they can be,” Cheeseman said. “I still get butterflies before performances. I still get nervous, but I really think they're ready. I believe that their hard work is really going to pay off.”

Their director's confidence doesn't mean students aren't taking the competition seriously, said Syndicated Sound president and 17-year-old senior Danyle King. They practice for at least an hour and a half every day. The group only has 24 members, making it the smallest in the entire competition, but King said what it lacks in bodies it makes up in sound.

“Ever since I saw the show choir perform in middle school, I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” King said. “It's incredibly competitive to get in, and Mr. Cheeseman picks us based on how well we perform 'Happy Birthday.'

“I believe we're going to win. We've been practicing all year long for this, and even though our group is so diverse, we all want this so bad. But even if we don't win, just saying we competed against the best is more then I could ever imagine.”

The group is competing with a 20-minute show, complete with backdrops and costume changes, following an environmental theme. Syndicated Sound will perform full-bodied choral arrangements of pop hits such as Michael Jackson's “Earth Song,” Coldplay's “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” and 30 Seconds to Mars' “Beautiful Lie,” while the women's group will be performing songs about female empowerment, such as Lady Gaga's “Edge of Glory.”

Though many of the competing choirs use professional musicians to back their performers, Syndicated Sound's nine-piece band is comprised entirely of students. But the group has earned its reputation as one of the best choirs in the nation for a reason, said 17-year-old senior Lauren Thompson.

“I think in the three years I've been in this group this year, we have the best, sharpest choreography and a tremendous amount of talent,” she said. “One of my favorite memories was last year, when we were named grand champions at a competition in Alabama. We all went back on the bus and started singing 'We are the Champions.' That was just the best feeling, and I can' wait to feel that again.”

The final competition between the Top 6 teams will be held Saturday.

“Our whole goal is just to make it to finals,” Cheeseman said. “From there, whatever else happens, happens.”


adawson@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-9851

Twitter: @adawsonTBO

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