Janesville46.5°

Milton team sings and dances its way to success

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Stacy Vogel
January 22, 2008
— It’s 7 a.m. The sun hasn’t come up yet.

But inside Milton High School, students are bounding across the stage and singing their hearts out as if they’d never heard of the alarm snooze.


Every muscle is engaged in the performance. They have to be. Mr. Schrank would notice if they weren’t.


To use a “Harry Potter” analogy, if Milton’s show choir were Hogwarts, Bill Schrank would be Professor Dumbledore, said senior Alex Wasemiller, a dance captain on Milton’s Choralation team.


“I swear, he knows everything,” Wasemiller said.


He ought to. Schrank built Milton’s show choir program from the ground up when he arrived at the school 30 years ago.


Today, the program boasts two teams—Choralation and the school’s prep team, Rising Stars—with more than 100 students. They travel all over the Midwest and are planning a trip to Disney World for a competition in March.


Schrank, himself a graduate of Milton High School, started the show choir team after participating in one at UW-Whitewater. Back then, he and the students choreographed the dances themselves, with the assistance of his brother and sister-in-law, also music teachers.


In 1992, he hired a professional choreographer from Indianapolis, and the team’s reputation has ballooned since.


The show choir team has become an institution at Milton. Of Choralation’s four dance captains, three had older siblings in show choir. Schrank also teaches choir at Milton Middle School, getting students interested in the team before they even reach high school.


Students have to be prepared for hard work.


Besides rehearsing in class every day, they meet once a week as a team before school. They also have to come in at least once a week for individual help from the dance captains. On a typical Saturday, they meet before dawn to spend hours on a bus to get to a competition.


Not to mention getting up on stage in front of lots of people to dance and sing at the same time.


“It’s like doing aerobics and singing through it,” Schrank said.


“Except in aerobics they probably won’t yell at you if your fingers aren’t pointed,” added senior Tom Zanton, another dance captain.


But team members love every minute of it.


“My mom thinks I’m weird because every Saturday when I have to get up at 4 a.m., I’m curling my hair going, ‘I love show choir,’” said dance captain Katie Groeschl, a senior.


The students feel like more than a team; they’re a family, they said. They coach each other and back up each other when they make mistakes.


Far more than the awards, Schrank enjoys seeing the students mature. When they start out in Rising Stars, they occasionally bicker over petty, outside issues, he said. By the time they reach Choralation, they’re a tight-knit unit.


“We’re all on stage together,” he tells them. “It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, what your dad does.


“We’re all in this together.”


IF YOU GO

What: Milton High School’s 16th Annual Show Choir Invitational. Milton’s Choralation and Rising Stars teams will compete against teams from all over the Midwest, including Parkview High School, Brodhead High School and Janesville Craig High School.


When: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. Preliminary competition goes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The top six groups will perform in the finals starting at 7 p.m., with the awards presentation at 10 p.m.


Where: Milton High School, 114 W. High St.


Cost: $8 for a half-day (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 5 p.m. to finish) or $13 for a full day


More information: Call (608) 322-4814.


FUND-RAISER PLANNED

The Milton show choirs are holding a benefit next month to raise money for their trip to the Showstoppers competition in Orlando, Fla.


Tickets to the Thursday, Feb. 28, benefit are $20 and include dinner. The event also will feature performances, a live auction, a silent auction and a raffle. Raffle prizes include a diamond pendent, laptop computer and flat-screen TV.


The event starts at 5 p.m. at the Pontiac Convention Center, 2809 N. Pontiac Dr., Janesville. Tickets are available at Milton High School, Piggly Wiggly, Dave’s Ace Hardware and any Milton bank.



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