West Liberty High School to offer Jazz Choir in COVID-19 twist


The West Liberty School Board of Education heard a proposal at their regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 7, from West Liberty High School vocal music teacher Mallory Vallentine to create a new jazz choir after figuring out it would be too difficult to host a show choir team because of the pandemic.

The teacher said 12-16 students could participate in the jazz choir compared to the 24 who are usually involved in the Voices Unlimited Show Choir, noting there are a number of schools making the same move to meet CDC guidelines.

She said the energy of a show choir coupled with the regulation to wear masks would make it difficult for students to breathe, plus students won’t need to know dance moves or have experience in dance. Vallentine said there is also a cost savings for students, which is usually about $100 for student fees, while jazz choir would likely have little to no fees.

Vallentine said creating the new choir would give students exposure to a different type of music than the modern pop usually sung in show choir, noting the students will get a history lesson on the new music, calling the new extra-curricular activity ”more educationally beneficial.” She said students will learn new singing techniques, rhythmic patterns and microphone techniques.

She called it a “perfect opportunity” as students will have to adapt to a different way of performing with a microphone instead of as a complete unit. The veteran instructor said show choir usually has about five shows annually while jazz choir will have at least as many while also being able to perform locally for community groups.

She said jazz competitions the group could potentially participate include visiting North Liberty, Solon, Cedar Rapids Washington, Waunkee, Indianola as well as the state jazz choir competition. She said programs already exist as well in Muscatine, Liberty, Solon, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cedar Rapids Washington, Pleasant Valley, Center Point-Urbana and Mount Vernon.

Vallentine said the WL Stars competition could be reworked “easily” into a jazz competition this year and said the West Liberty Fine Arts Booster Club is already in the process of adding a jazz band component to the competition.

The only drawback was the fact the new program would need equipment that would include microphones, microphone cable and a 16 channel studio drop snake, costing $2,752. That expense was approved by the board.

Questioned whether she thought the program would be a one-year activity, Vallentine said she hoped it wouldn’t be, noting it presents a whole new avenue for music students. “I wouldn’t be opposed to it being offered in future years,” she said.

The board also approved several personnel changes including accepting the resignation of seventh grade assistant football coach Caleb Studebaker as well as accepting the retirement of Rob Chelf as a bus driver/groundskeeper effective Oct. 30. The board also approved the hiring of two new coaches including Ruben Galvan as eighth grade head volleyball coach and Studebaker as seventh grade head football coach.

Approval was also given to the West Liberty High School volleyball team who hope to make $500 or more

The board won’t meet again until Monday, Sept. 21 beginning at 6 p.m. as part of a virtual meeting conducted from the district administration office board room. The board is expected to get an enrollment update and will hear reports on special education financing and the certified annual report. Superintendent Dr. Diego Giraldo will also give a report while the board approves several policies.