Bloomington Expressive Arts Training, a children’s show choir program, offers opportunities for students all the way up to their high school graduations to participate in show choir programs from the introductory level to the pre-professional level.
Brennan and Ly Wilder, directors and founders of BEAT, started the program five years ago after realizing there was not anything in Bloomington for children to engage in show choir.
Brennan, executive director and choreographer, said they wanted to see if there was any interest in starting a show choir program in Bloomington.
“It’s such an awesome arts community that we really wanted to start something,” Brennan said. “So we thought, ‘Let’s see if there’s any interest,’ so we did a mini camp to see if anybody was interested, and 15 girls signed up, and it was so fun.”
Five years later, the mini-camp has expanded to four programs: Mini-Sync, an introductory-level show choir; Synchronicity, an intermediate-level show choir; Syncopation, made up of children in grades 5-9; and Amplitude, the newest community high school show choir including students in grades 9-12.
Brennan said BEAT is a way for students to come together and have the opportunity to grow in their art form beyond their school programs or for children who do not have as much arts opportunity in their school to come together.
There are currently 28 different schools represented in BEAT.
“It’s created really cool friendships for the kids they wouldn’t get before,” Brennan said.
Brennan spent much of her time before BEAT working as a freelance choreographer. She said working with BEAT is being a part of the long-term process and getting to see the chidlren grow up.
“I think that’s the really cool part and the part that was missing,” Brennan said. “Now I get to see the kids grow up, and a lot of them find their passion, and not only getting to see them become cool, awesome performers but really cool people is fun for me.”
In addition to Brennan and Ly, BEAT has teaching assistants, typically current or former IU students, working with the children on a weekly basis.
Many of these teaching assistants join after working with BEAT either with Singing Hoosiers at IU or through their connections with Brennan and Ly through other IU performing ensembles.
Maddy Tipton, a junior at IU, said after working with the kids during Chimes of Christmas last December, she was interested in working with them on a more regular basis because of her show choir background.
“We come to all the rehearsals, make sure that all the kids are squared away,” Tipton said. “Whether it be with their dance moves, whether it be with their vocals, we make sure they pretty much know what’s going on at all times.”
Brennan said the teaching assistants are a vital part of the program.
“The kids look up to them so much because it’s like, ‘Oh, they’re in college,’” Brennan said. “They can do it all, they’re a real time example of growing up and experiencing this.”
Tipton, a former high school show choir member, said it’s appealing to come from a show choir background or performing arts and be in a position of giving back.
She said getting to see the process the kids go through of getting the choreography, struggling with it and then growing to a point of mastering what they’ve been given is her favorite part of teaching.
“You see those relationships between the kids grow throughout the year,” Tipton said. “Really just seeing them have fun perform and having a good time, just being kids.”
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