Fort Dodge Senior High's A Capella Choir won the title of Grand Champions at the Onalaska Concert Choir Classic in Onalaska, Wis., in January.
The school's 55 A capella choir members competed with its 40-member Vox Femina, a total of 95 students. The previous two years, the choir won third place.
"They had gone a couple of years previously, this is their third year doing it. And this year they won," Joseph Svendsen, FDSH vocal music instructor, said. "They were very happy to feel like they were improving, that they were getting better. It was great to see the kids be validated."
For the competition the choir prepared concert music, the same as performed in local concerts.
"You try to polish it and be very picky about details. And then when you go to the competition you sing usually for about 15 to 20 minutes, each group," Svendsen said.
Choirs perform before a panel of three judges. Each judge gives a score "based on several different elements of music making," Svendsen said. The points from all three judges are added and the highest total score wins.
To become Grand Champions takes a lot of practice.
"One of the things we talk about a lot is the work you do to get there is far more important than the result you get," Svendsen said. "All of the practice that leads up to something successful like that is really what allows you to be successful. Without attention to the practice and without dedication or that desire to improve, the result isn't going to come before the attitude."
The students enjoyed their victory, Svendsen said.
"We talk about being affirmed, and I think we all seek it," he said. "All of us, no matter what we're passionate about, we like to be recognized for the thing we love to do, what we think our gifts are. They certainly felt very affirmed. They were very excited to feel like they were recognized by people who were not necessarily rooting for them, who were there to be objective and still felt they were an excellent group."
The victory was also validating for the students' teacher.
"At the beginning of the year, the choir meets before school starts and we have sort of a retreat," Svendsen said. "We set out goals for the entire year. They have yearly goals, goals they want to accomplish by the time the school year is done, and goals they want to accomplish on a day-to-day basis, things that will help them achieve the yearly goal."
One of the students' goals, Svendsen said, was to place first or second at Onalaska.
"They made that goal the first week of August," Svendsen said. "From August to December and January they worked on making the necessary effort they felt they needed to, to achieve that goal. As a teacher, I'm very excited that I get to teach a group of kids that make high goals for themselves and then go about accomplishing them."
The FDSH A Capella Choir will next be one of five choirs in concert Feb. 18 at Phillips Middle School, the last FDSH concert performance ever at that building.
"That auditorium is 90 years old, and has seen a lot of wonderful musical performances not only from ensembles here in the community, but from traveling groups that have come over the years," Svendsen said. "It's a fun way for us to bid farewell."
In April, the choir will go on tour in Council Bluffs, to Northwest Missouri State to perform with the Tower Choir, and then Roland.
"Touring like that is important because it allows (the students) to share music with people who are not their parents or family or friends," Svendsen said. "It's a great way for our school to be an ambassador of our community, where our students go forward to these other places in Iowa and in surrounding states."