Warm-Ups: How Show Choirs Fill Their Final 30 Minutes Before Stage Time

© Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports 2012 Olympics: Opening Ceremony

By Damon Brown

Before the lights flash and the emcee announces the start of a show, a hush falls over a crowded room 50 yards from the stage. Every show choir student who has ever put on his or her sequin knows this revered space. It’s where the competition really starts: the warm-up.

“The warm-up room is one of my favorite parts of competition,” said Julia Wolver, a show choir member at Clover Hill High School in Virginia. “We do no-sweat warm-ups with vocal exercises, stretches and the band tuning. … Then we mark through our entire show and get all hype for the performance. The room is just electric!”

At competitions throughout the country, groups have a 25- to 30-minute pre-show period to prepare for the task ahead. This time includes vocal warm-ups, stretches, prayers, group cheers, run-throughs, and of course, pep talks.

“On the way to the warm-up, our school’s other choir does a big tunnel we run through, which is probably my favorite part of the day!” said JoDee Lynch, of Warren Central High School in Indiana. “Then, right before we leave, we pass a pulse (squeezing hands in a circle), feeling everyone’s support and let loose any nerves.”

Some groups make it a time for adrenaline-pumping fire-ups, with enthusiastic directors and choreographers jumping up and down to rally the troops. Other performers, like Kyle Minor, who sang for Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School in Iowa, remember the room as a place for quiet reflection and focus.

“We’d stand in a circle and get motivated and inspired as our director spoke about the great show that lay ahead,” he said.

Whatever the method, it’s a critical time of last-minute preparation that can be the difference between a great show or an unfocused and erratic performance.

“I love warm-ups so much because rather than telling us how we have to go out and be better than everyone else, our director tells us to just have fun and do the best we can,” said Maddie Souders of Clover Hill. “Warm-ups are definitely one of my favorite moments at competition every single year!”

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