By Dawn Hatfield
GREENVILLE — Kari (Lemon) Thompson, Greenville Middle School music teacher, choir director, and theater workshop advisor/director, has taken on a new challenge: GMS Tidal Waves. The new extra-curricular show choir-style group held auditions for students in grades five through eight shortly after school began in fall 2022. With little more than a handful of practices under their belt, the determined vocalists officially debuted their talents at the GMS Holiday Concert at St. Clair Memorial Hall on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, where they collaborated with GMS choir singers to present an evening of holiday entertainment.
With the arts losing ground in many schools across the country, they actually seem to be gaining ground in Greenville. Thompson was asked about Tidal Waves’ beginnings and said, “When I was a senior in high school—this is before we had the new buildings—Kathy Brewer had started South Singers… they would go into the community and sing songs and dance. A couple years later, Kathy Douds at East started East Echoes. They had these groups going, but once they retired nobody wanted to take over, so they went by the wayside.”
This left a vocal void, and while Thompson reported a majority of the traditional choir [class] students don’t want to tackle choreography, many middle-school students expressed a desire to do something similar to the high school’s Wavaires and Collage groups. Thompson told them, “Ok, let’s see what I can do!”
The discussion of a show choir-style group started before COVID, but Thompson and the would-be Tidal Wavers found themselves at a standstill during the pandemic. Finally, this year, the timing seemed right.
Thompson explained, “Chelsea [Whirledge] and I have been really trying to push to get choir offered for the fifth- and sixth-grade students, and I decided to try Tidal Waves to see if we would get enough interest in those grades. We were kind of running it as a study, if you will, to gauge the interest. We actually had A LOT of interest, which I was very, very, very excited about! I had to tell some students, ‘My room is full [with 42 students on the Tidal Waves roster]. I can’t take you. I’m so sorry!’” However, with about 10 eighth graders moving up to the high school next year, Tidal Waves will have room to add more members in fall 2023.
“Tidal Waves gives [younger] students the option to try choir; plus, it gives the band and orchestra students a [singing] option too because they cannot take choir until eighth grade. Tidal Waves is opening up [vocal music] a little bit more,” said Thompson.
Mercedes Angles (grade eight) agreed, “I joined Tidal Waves because there are so many amazing people, and it gives me the option to be in a singing group because my school schedule is full.”
“They get through about a song a week. They are very much motivated; they LOVE doing it, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable for me too—they WANT to be there,” said Thompson.
Bella Enicks (grade seven) said, “My favorite part [of Tidal Waves] is how everyone is like one big family, and you don’t have to try and fit in because everyone accepts you for who you are.”
During their debut, Tidal Waves shared three fully-choreographed songs with the audience: “A Bit of Holiday Cheer,” arranged by Chinn; “Yule Be Swingin’,” arranged by Huff and featuring Arabella Pierce and Gabriella Browning as soloists; and “Snow Globe,” arranged by Beck and sung together with the entire GMS choir. Gauging by the audience’s reactions, the Tidal Waves achieved instant success!
When Thompson was asked how things are going, she said, “I think sometimes the students are hypercritical because, after the Holiday Concert, they said they had been really nervous about it and were focused mostly on the negatives, but I said, ‘Do you guys realize you did two songs, essentially three, and you learned choreography and music in basically five days!?’ We’d only had five or six rehearsals because we just meet once a week, and they hadn’t realized that. I told them, ‘That’s telling me how good you guys are, how motivated you are, and that we can push to do even better for your next two concerts!’”
Upcoming performances include the GMS Winter (March 3) and Spring (May 4) Concerts beginning 7 p.m. at Memorial Hall with a possible additional performance at Waves of Pride, typically held in late March.
The collaborative effort is supported by Director Thompson as well as Nic Colby, her former student. Greenville administrators also “gave their blessing” for Thompson to try out Tidal Waves and have been very pleased with the outcome thus far.
In addition to the many hats she wears at GMS, Thompson, a Ball State graduate, is also secretary and member of Darke County Civic Theater, Senior Choir Director at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, and a frequently featured vocalist with Greenville Municipal Concert Band. A Greenville native, Thompson began singing with her family at the age of four in area churches, at benefits, and during the Great Darke County Fair.
Reach Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield at [email protected] or 937-569-0066.