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Choirpalooza takes the stage in Farmington

Sixth grade students at Dodge Middle School practice The Star Spangled Banner Monday afternoon. The National Anthem is just one of the songs they will perform at Choirpalooza Thursday.2 / 2

Choirpalooza isn't just a cool sounding name for a concert. It's a cool concept for one, too.

The annual Choirpaloooza concert is Thursday night at Farmington High School. And while it will feature several of the high school choirs, it's really all about the younger performers -- the sixth graders of Dodge and Boeckman middle schools.

The younger students are working on songs of their own -- Dodge Middle School students were busy perfecting The Star Spangled Banner earlier this week -- but they'll perform a few with the older students, too. A mass choir of all the groups from both middle schools and the high school will bring Jeremiah the bullfrog and the tune "Joy to the World" to the stage.

The age groups are different, to be sure. The skill level will vary, too. But that's all part of the plan, said DMS vocal teacher Alexandra Thrasher.

"The main objective is to get them to stick with choir from middle school through their high school years," Thrasher said. "It's mainly to get them excited to be in choir and see what it's like to be part of the high school choir."

Interest retention

In elementary school, students have a regular music class. They sing and experiment with smaller instruments, but it's not until fifth grade before they decide whether they would like to continue in a music education program as they get older.

High school music students who are part of the New Dimension choir go to the elementary schools to perform and talk about why they're still in choir. It's that kind of positive influence that has interested students in the past and will likely catch their attention in the future.

Students have the option of joining choir in middle school, and quite a few of them give it a try. Thrasher estimates Dodge Middle School has 110 to 120 students in the program. But as kids get older and their tastes sometimes change and more than a few drop choir.

"We would like to see those numbers up through eighth grade. We are really doing our best to keep those numbers from dropping off," Thrasher said.

That's where a concert like Choirpalooza comes in handy. Not only are the younger students able to hear from the high school concert choir, but they also see a performance by the men's and women's choirs at the high school.

"We also expose them to the women's choir and men's choir so they can see what single gender choirs are like," Thrasher said.

Besides working with older students for the Choirpalooza concert, sixth grade choirs are exposed to many genres of music. They get to do a little jazz, a little classical, some pop and even some Broadway. The sixth graders learn music from different cultures, too. Before their first concert, the DMS students learned songs in Hebrew and Gaelic. Next semester, they're going to work on one in Spanish and another in Latin.

The sixth graders were looking forward to this week's concert. But so was Thrasher, who is new to District 192 this year.

"This is my first Choirpalooza. I'm really excited for it, too. I've never done this before," she said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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