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The Nile C. Kinnick Show Choir practiced Wednesday for the United Nations’ environment-focused “Our Forest Is Alive” show in Kawasaki on Sunday. The choir performed more than 30 times in 2005.
The Nile C. Kinnick Show Choir practiced Wednesday for the United Nations’ environment-focused “Our Forest Is Alive” show in Kawasaki on Sunday. The choir performed more than 30 times in 2005. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)
The Nile C. Kinnick Show Choir practiced Wednesday for the United Nations’ environment-focused “Our Forest Is Alive” show in Kawasaki on Sunday. The choir performed more than 30 times in 2005.
The Nile C. Kinnick Show Choir practiced Wednesday for the United Nations’ environment-focused “Our Forest Is Alive” show in Kawasaki on Sunday. The choir performed more than 30 times in 2005. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)
Senior high school singer Misari Buckley has a serious range but tenor fits her best, she said.
Senior high school singer Misari Buckley has a serious range but tenor fits her best, she said. (Allison Batdorff / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Why does the Nile C. Kinnick High School Show Choir get great gigs?

Monique Rose puts it in “American Idol” terms.

“Basically we’re all divas,” the high school senior said of the group’s 14 singers.

So what’s the male equivalent of “diva” for the guys in the group?

“Beast,” promptly answered Cody Bauhs. Kinnick’s Show Choir has made such great strides in the past few years that none of his buddies give him a hard time for singing, he said.

“After they see us perform, my friends are like, ‘Wow, you can really sing. That’s pretty cool,’” Bauhs said.

Others seem to agree: The show choir did more than 30 performances in 2005, racking up awards as well as a standing ovation at a gathering of all secondary school principals in Kanto Plain. Last week, the show choir sang at the Tokyo American Club for the College Women’s Association of Japan. This Sunday they’ll sing in the United Nations’ environment-focused “Our Forest Is Alive” show in Kawasaki.

In Kinnick’s show choir, formally dressed students sing a variety of songs in English, Japanese and Italian. A few singers are adding Spanish, French and German songs to their repertoire, Rose said.

Getting this far meant “raising the bar” from former choirs, said Phillip Ulmer, who was choral director for four years. He now works in the Department of Defense Dependents Schools Japan district office at Yokota Air Base.

“We raised the standards,” said Ulmer. “It took lots of love, hard work and honesty. If it something sounded bad, we said so.”

Student dedication also figures into the equation, said current director and vocal music teacher Phil Stonebarger.

“I practically have to chase them out of practice every night,” he said, “They just want to hang out and sing.”

Other factors make Kinnick’s group stand out as well, Rose said.

For one, Misari Buckley said she’s “the only girl in the tenor section in Far East” — which would explain why she accidentally was assigned to a boy’s room at a recent competition.

“I can sing higher if I’m warmed up,” she said. “But tenor fits me best.”

Being servicemembers’ children also makes them unique, Rose said.

“Military kids move constantly, so we’re always changing. Last year, we had 12 and lost four, so we’re always having auditions,” she said. “International schools don’t have that.”

Rose said four years of show choir singing changed her life.

“I used to want to be a veterinarian,” she said. “Now I want to be a choral director and I hope to work at Kinnick one day. I’ve seen what happens when you work really hard.”

The group will present the “Our Forest Is Alive” concert on Sunday at the Muza Kawasaki Symphony Hall. The choir will perform the selections closer to home on Oct. 22, at 1 p.m. at Yokosuka’s Benny Decker Theater.

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