The beginning of a 'Legacy'

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When the MFL MarMac High School show choir takes the stage this season, they’ll do so under the new name of Legacy, departing from the Young Americans moniker the group has been know for since the 1970s. Legacy members recently completed their second choreography camp with Jordan Webster-Moore, in preparation for the one-hit wonders-themed show that will feature re-vamped song and dance numbers. (Submitted photo)

With show choir’s name change comes re-vamped choreography, musical arrangements

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

When the MFL MarMac High School show choir takes the stage this season, they’ll do so under the new name of Legacy, departing from the Young Americans moniker the group has been know for since the 1970s.

The change wasn’t by choice, said choral director Jaydeane Berns. The school’s superintendent, Dale Crozier, received a letter from a California-based group also called the Young Americans, who said they’d copyrighted the name.

Formed in 1975 by Fremont Ogle, the local Young Americans were originally tasked with singing at the Miss Northeast Iowa beauty pageant.

“The theme was ‘America the Beautiful,’ and from there came the Young Americans,” Berns explained. “I’ve also tied it in with the kids that, in the 1970s, we celebrated the bicentennial.”

Ironically, she added, the first group included 24 members in grades nine through 12, the exact number Legacy will have this year. 

That history, though, was irrelevant. 

“There was absolutely no consideration of us keeping the name the Young Americans,” Berns said. “[Crozier] did get them to agree that we could perform under the name one last year, but we as a group decided that, if we had to change the name, we would do it this year and just move forward.”

So how does a group go about changing a four-decades-old name? Berns said she and the students simply started listing possibilities on the board in the choral room. The ultimate selection was actually suggested jokingly by another teacher.

Junior Riley Whitney said she and fellow member Rose Grau were in Mr. Adam Simon’s class, explaining the need for the name change.

“He was just naming off a bunch of things,” she shared, “and was like, ‘Oh, you guys, you’re the Legacies.’ Rose and I both made eye contact and were like, ‘We could actually use that. That’s a good name.’ So we came in and wrote it on the board, and people started circling it and underlining. There wasn’t a whole lot of dispute.”

The group’s slogan is “the end of an era, the beginning of a legacy,” both embracing the new name and paying homage to its Young Americans past.

“We’re Legacy show choir, and we want to carry on the legacy,” said Whitney. “And although we don’t have that Young Americans name, we want people who might be upset about the name change to know we’re not letting the legacy go.”

But that doesn’t mean the group will be doing the same old song and dance. Grau said, with the change to Legacy, they’ve reinvented themselves.

“We got a new choreographer last year, and we’re a new group and have a new style,” she remarked.

Gone, said senior Max Koeller, are the days of simply stepping and clapping.

“A lot of it was very old school,” he noted. “Now, it’s got a bit of hip hop. You’re not going to get bored when you’re watching the show.”

Senior Destiny Berns agreed.

“Before,” she said, “our choreography would be more simple. Now, we look modern.”

Legacy met its choreographer, Cedar Rapids-based Jordan Webster-Moore, at a competition in Marion. He was fresh out of college and looking to gain experience.

“We’d been talking amongst ourselves as a group and felt like we were ready for a change, to take us to a new level,” said the director, Berns. 

Luckily, Webster-Moore was willing to work with the group’s modest budget. They started preparing for the upcoming season at the start of the school year, and wrapped up their second choreography camp two weekends ago.

The dancing has, admittedly, been a challenge, said Berns. It’s taken both she and the students out of their comfort zones.

“There’s a lot of layering that goes on, where not everyone is doing the exact same thing. They just learned the guy/girl medley and, in both pieces, at one point in the song, there’s a group of people who start the choreography just four beats later. Or you have a lot of layering as the outsides may be doing something different than the group in the middle,” she explained. “It adds a lot of interest and depth to what’s going on on the stage.”

The changes were even riskier, the director said, because roughly half this year’s group is new to show choir.

“But they rose to the challenge and I’m very excited,” she stated.

“I feel like, at the first choreography camp, everyone was nervous to ask questions. But everyone’s grown and, now, people are asking questions and bringing up suggestions. It just seems like everyone works well together,” added junior Anna Stoddard.

In addition to the choreography, Legacy is updating its musical selections too. This year’s theme is one-hit wonders, and has a bit of an ‘80s vibe. The opener is “Ready to Go” by Republica, followed by 2012’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye. The next piece is the medley, which the guys start with “Come on Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners, and then moves to Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey” for the ladies. The ballad is “Where Are You Now” by Jimmy Harnen, and the group will close with “You Spin Me Right Round” by Dead or Alive. 

For the first time, Berns had the entire show arranged for the group, rather than relying on stock arrangements. That allowed her to work directly with the arranger, David Wilkinson, as well as the choreographer, Webster-Moore, to shape what worked best for the students.

“You can just fit it to our needs,” said Whitney.

It also infused more creativity into the process. That’s most evident with “Somebody That I Used to Know,” which now has a faster tempo, including cut time at the end.

“It’s the best part of the show,” Whitney shared. “We go from—Rose has a solo right before—to all of a sudden we hit the beat and we’re going and everyone’s so excited and you can feel the energy from all of us.”

“It’s like double speed, and it’s just awesome,” Koeller noted.

Junior Nick Stavroplus said he’s been impressed by the Legacy band, which he was part of last year before moving into a singing and dancing role. 

“Our support from the band has grown, and they’re basically playing the whole time,” he commented. “I’ve looked at the music, and I don’t know how these kids are doing it. They’re pulling in middle schoolers and they’re doing really well.”

Legacy hopes these changes will propel the group to new heights. They were one place away from making the finals at state last year (which would have been a school first), and Whitney said the goal is to get there this time around. 

“We really want to work our tails off to make sure we are putting ourselves in the best position to reach those goals,” she said. “Although we are a very young group, we have a good show and we really want to show people what we can do. I feel like we’re turning into the show choirs we’ve watched and we want to be.”

Having watched the program innovate over the past four years, Koeller and fellow senior Destiny Berns are confident that will be the case.

“I think we’re hitting our peak right now,” Berns quipped.

“I think those changes could propel us to getting in the finals for the first time and doing things we haven’t done. We’re named Legacy for a reason,” added Koeller. “That’s not to forget our past, but to remember that change isn’t bad and use that to start something new.”

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