While Chippewa Falls Senior High School’s music department has 40-plus events each year, the department has rarely — if ever — gathered all its top ensembles and soloists together for one night of performance.
That’s about to change, said Chippewa Falls Music Association (CFMA) president Annalie Thies.
Thies and the CFMA, a booster club for the Chi-Hi music department, have organized a fundraising event that’s a step in a new direction for the department.
“(It’s) a night of music, celebrating the best of what makes us great … you can’t walk away from it not loving something, if not all of it,” said Chi-Hi band director Mike Renneke.
Encore! is billed as a showcase of “the best musical moments of the year.” The two-hour show touches on the past year’s performances from Harmonics, Wire Choir, Jazz Band, various orchestras, top ensembles and student spotlights.
“It’s not very often that outsiders get to see into a classroom when that light bulb moment happens,” Renneke said.
Audiences will get a little taste of all the department’s performances from the school year, from a 1950s musical theater number to Baroque, classical, jazz and pop pieces.
As for the name? “The reason we called this ‘Encore!’ … (it’s) the best musical moment of the year we get to relive. It’s 18 of them in a row,” Renneke said.
“The Harmonics’ (show) ends with ‘Uptown Funk’ from Bruno Mars. You’ve got the philharmonic orchestra, and you’ve got that,” said Thies, laughing.
Encore! is replacing three years of Chi-Hi Music’s Got Talent, a dinner-and-a-show event previously held at a local conference center and the Eagle’s Club Banquet Hall. The former show involved a $40 price tag, dinner and raffles.
Music faculty said that, although it was enjoyed by audiences, the dinner event wasn’t showing off the full scope of the students’ talent.
“It wasn’t reaching the community the way we’d hoped,” said vocal director Ron Buckles.
The formal dinner show regularly brought in 75 to 100 people, but sometimes created physical challenges for the performers.
“(Standing) on the top riser, you could reach and touch the ceiling… In Wire Choir, we had to flip someone, and her feet almost hit the chandelier,” remembered senior Chase Bucheger. “We needed more height and area to perform. This is going to be a great change.”
Senior Daniel Modl, who remembered performing in Jazz Band in the 2017 event, agreed.
“The people who had multiple instruments had to reach behind and hope we grabbed it, and not someone else’s trombone,” he said.
The auditorium was the obvious choice of venue, Renneke said: “We said, let’s pump the brakes and do it here … We’re familiar with this space, and we can put on a really spectacular show.”
Now, with a 760-seat capacity auditorium and $10 tickets, the CFMA and the music faculty members are expecting a large turnout — not just from families, but from the community as a whole.
One of the student performers said he hopes middle school students will attend, and begin considering joining a musical group when they enter high school.
“Middle schoolers (are) coming up into freshman year of high school, and there’s a lot of tension and anxiety … Especially in marching band, we try to alleviate the scariness, tension and anxiety for kids,” Modl said. “It would be a great opportunity for middle school students to see all the stuff they can accomplish in high school.”
Proceeds from the event go the CFMA, which donates the money to the music department. In the past, the proceeds have funded band uniforms, music stands and scholarships.
“What CFMA does for hundreds of kids is explosive,” Buckles said.
Encore! will debut Sunday, May 6 at 4 p.m. at the Chippewa Falls Senior High School auditorium. Purchase tickets at https://cfhs.ludus.com/ or call the Chi-Hi box office at (715) 726-2406 ext. 2409. Tickets are $10 and may be available at the door.