Teenagers singing in show choir

Plainfield Choirs Hit High Notes of Success

Choir, like many extracurricular activities at the high school level, has evolved to what audience members might call a full-fledged variety show. The five (soon to be six) choirs offered at Plainfield High School (PHS) are a great example of students truly putting their best foot forward, and it’s paying off.

Les Chanteuses, the men’s chorus, and the up-and-coming sixth offering for women’s beginner show choir, are opportunities for students to dip their toes in the water. They learn about music and performance, and host a concert three times each year.

Head Choir Director Michael Hummel said even the beginner choir performances are packed with unique music selections and a ton of fun at each concert.

Nouvelles is a junior varsity show choir for men and women.

Two high schoolers singing in show choir
Plainfield High School show choir (photo by Amy Payne)

Femmes Fatales is an advanced-level, all-women show choir. For the first time in PHS history, Femmes Fatales qualified for the 2024 Indiana State School Music Association state concert choir finals and tied for second place, ultimately taking third at the tie breaker.

Last but not least, Belles et Beaux is an advanced male and female show choir. They most recently returned to the state finals for a second time and placed sixth, their highest placement to date.

Belles et Beaux has been a PHS choir staple for 45 years, but things have changed as Plainfield has grown.

In the past, PHS choir students were considered a part of the small-school competitions and have had some success, but as the district continues to grow, PHS students now qualify for the large-school competitions, pitting them against the best of the best. In fact, they are now the largest show choir in the state of Indiana.

Hummel is completing his third year as head choir director at PHS.

“We’ve had a lot of success over the past couple of years,” Hummel said. “Right after the pandemic it was a hard time for the arts, so we basically started from scratch. We’ve gone from 140 choir students to over 200 in the program. The music is current, cool, and it’s an awesome thing to be a part of, so I think more students are getting involved.”

Show choir performance with women in traditional dress

Not only do they want to get involved, but Hummel also wants to make it easy to join, regardless of other extracurricular activities or sports programs.

“I want to make it easy to be successful,” Hummel said. “A lot of times you see kids who can’t be in sports and in choir at the same time, but we offer a great amount of flexibility. If you want choir to be a part of your life, we’ll make it work.”

As a former coach, Hummel knows the demands and expectations for students. He operates the choir program similar to a sport, minus the pressure.

“A lot of the guys like that,” he said. “They don’t want to come to choir and sing ‘Kumbaya’. It’s got to be cool and fun, and we get to compete against others. We have honor-roll kids, football players, you name it. We cut a swatch of students from every demographic at school.”

The cool factor was there this year with a viking theme and a Mardi Gras theme. Perhaps their confidence in the performance, and the chance to perform as another character while using their skills, is too good to pass up. It’s being a part of something this big that draws the students in, and they also have opportunities to help and guide each other.

“For some students, this is their place of success,” Hummel said. “We have a really dynamic student leadership. It’s hands-on, and what a way to set them up for the future as they mentor and lead each other.”

Regardless of how they ended up in the choir, the growth and development Hummel sees is undeniable. Students are improving their musical skills and talents, but they’re gaining life skills and confidence too.

“Choir is just a vehicle for students to become better versions of themselves,” he said. “We’re asking them to sing and dance in front of 1,000 people and it helps them grow and challenge themselves. It’s soft skills – how to communicate and express yourself positively. It might not be bio med, but it does help them prepare for the real world.”

Their involvement sets them apart on college applications and job opportunities. Anyone who knows anything about show choir can imagine the amount of work it must take to perform a 20-minute, aerobic dance and singing show. It tells others they are ready for a challenge and are willing to see tough days through for the bigger picture.

As for all of their recent success, Hummel said that wasn’t by chance.

Teenagers holding a trophy with teachers
Plainfield HS Choir winning ISSMA State Finalist Award (photo by Amy Payne)

The school supports the choir with a six-figure budget, allowing for the best costumes, sets and even digital advancements. One young lady recently wore a costume nearing $500 for all the intricately hand-sewn embellishments.

Hummel said to think of it like a traveling musical, which includes custom musical arrangements.

“Jarad Voss is one of the best choreographers in the country and he works with us every year,” Hummel said. “We often work directly with music artists. When we’re able to put real experts in front of our kids, that’s always helpful.”

Don’t forget about the parents and overall community support.

“Plainfield is special,” Hummel said. “Our choir programs have a great tradition of parent support. There’s a heritage and pride in being a part of this.”

It’s all necessary to continue the growth and development needed to reach those award-winning levels. In other words, in order to compete, one has to stay in the game.

“We’re constantly pressing the envelope,” Hummel said. “If you want to stay at the top, you’ve got to explore new avenues. I think we’re just at the beginning of what we can do. We’re just beginning to see our potential.”

If this year’s results are any indication, the PHS choirs are headed in the right direction.

“Music has a connection to us and singing is a lifelong skill,” Hummel said. “You can be taught how to sing. You can learn how to dance. It’s valuable to get invested in music because I carry this instrument with me wherever I go. Individually we might be just one person, but together we’re state champions.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Latest Hendricks County Stories

Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.

Send me your media kit!

hbspt.forms.create({ portalId: "6486003", formId: "5ee2abaf-81d9-48a9-a10d-de06becaa6db" });