With a school population of about 246 students, Osseo-Fairchild High School is small by many standards, but the school’s choir teacher doesn’t think that should stand in the way of talented students.
Aurora Krajnikconde, who has taught at the high school for eight years and loved music and dance since she was a young girl, wanted the small school’s biggest voices to be heard. That’s why she started the school’s first a cappella group in the 2016-17 school year.
“(Show choir) gave me a community to sing and dance, and I wanted something like that for my students,” she said. “We’re too small of a school for a show choir, but there’s a lot of talent here and I wanted to give them more opportunities to perform, compete and improve as singers.”
Her intuition paid off. Just a year after its humble beginnings, a cappella group The Danger Tones is hosting one of five International Championship of High School a Cappella quarterfinals in the Midwest.
It is the first time an ICHSA competition, what the “Pitch Perfect” films are based on, is being held on this side of the state, Krajnikconde said.
“Our goal is to be the absolute best we can be and just get our names out there,” she said. “To bring a competition like this and showcase the kids we have that are really talented — ours and the other groups — is a really exciting thing.”
She knew of the a cappella groups at Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau High School and got in touch with their director Ryan Stuempges for advice on how to start the group and, this year, how to compete.
Stuempges, whose groups have in the past traveled to the southeastern part of the state and Iowa to compete in ICHSA semifinals, was also the one who suggested Krajnikconde look into hosting a competition in Osseo.
The ICHSA Midwest quarterfinals at Osseo-Fairchild High School are at 7 p.m. Saturday, and Krajnikconde said they sold enough tickets to fill the nearly 500-seat auditorium to capacity two weeks ago.
Four other northwestern Wisconsin schools will have a cappella groups performing: Out of the Blue and Vocal Point, both of G-E-T High School in Galesville; The AHS Accidentals of Arcadia High School; and Tonal Recall of Shell Lake. Four choir groups from Minnesota will also be competing.
The top two finalists will move on to the ICHSA semifinals, which will be held March 10 in DeKalb, Ill.
The Danger Tones will perform a three-song set featuring Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” Queen’s “Under Pressure” and an original arrangement of Adele’s “Send My Love” that Krajnikconde had commissioned for the group.
Candice Portell, a senior and Soprano I for The Danger Tones, said she didn’t know much about a cappella, but when she saw the group performing at last year’s holiday concert, she wanted to be a part of it.
In just a few months, she is impressed with how far her fellow singers have come as vocal instrumentalists. She’s nervous about competing, but said overall she’s excited to show other groups what they can do.
“I care how far we go, but it won’t be super heartbreaking if we don’t go that far because I know we pushed ourselves to get however we score,” Portell said. “I’m super proud of everyone because we’ve worked really hard and we sound so cool.”
From learning how to turn her voice into an instrument to getting to work with a cappella professionals and area a cappella groups at Aca Fest at G-E-T High School last month, Portell said she has a new appreciation for the music form. She’s also enjoyed becoming an “aca-family” with the other 12 group members.
More importantly than competing is the connection the group has built, Portell said. Kranjikconde said that connection was shown when senior Andrea Kubishak tore her ACL recently.
With less than a month before the competition, Kranjikconde said they reworked their routine so Kubishak could still compete with them.
“She’ll be singing with us but sitting on a stool the whole time,” she said. “We want her to be there with us; she’s part of our team.”
In the end, that is Krajnikconde’s whole goal with The Danger Tones. Of course, moving on to the semifinals would be fun, but that’s not what the group is about.
“They have this place to be themselves and be lifted up by each other,” Krajnikconde said. “Teenagers can be mean, and it’s nice for them to have a place to feel safe and do what they love.”
Contact reporter: 715-833-9214, firstname.lastname@example.org, @KatherineMacek on Twitter
» Tickets for Saturday’s competition in Osseo are sold out, but for more information about the event, visit varsityvocals.com.