Director Brett Carroll’s “school of show” was definitely in session last weekend at Burbank High. The “Stand Up and Make a Change” Pop Show 2018 was awesome. Many of the acts—especially the In Sync finale–would’ve passed muster in Vegas as a family-friendly lead up to a celebrity headliner at one of the major casinos.
Yes, the students are that good. The least experienced singers, the mainly freshmen, and sophomores of Out of the Blue perform at the level of talented juniors and seniors at other schools, and they have the trophies to prove it. The other groups—In Sync, Sirens, Gentlemen’s Octet, Impressions and Sound Dogs—perform at the college level: really good college level, making Burbank High’s show choir one of the best in the nation. (For example, among other awards Sound Dogs won first place in the Advanced Men’s Division, besting the second place group by 50 points.) Everyone proved equal to the show’s demanding choreography, much of it created by the students themselves.
And as for the amazing soloists…let’s just say they would’ve given the prima donnas of Glee a run for their money.
The production values are no less impressive. High school students are running studio-quality sound and lighting and Burbank High graduates are now doing the same at places like CalArts and major studios. The costuming, makeup and staging was professional grade, reflecting the dedication of Vocal Music Association parents and alumni.
From the opening number to the finale, both the harmonies and enunciation were very precise, never slipping into muddiness. There were some impressive vocal ranges on display as well. That level of performance comes from countless hours of practice and encouragement. It also comes from a high level of camaraderie among the performers, one where star turns and ensemble efforts complement rather than compete with each other.
Brett Carroll, his staff, his students and the VMA community have been “standing up and making a change” for some time now. They’ve been doing it by enabling the students to hone their gifts to a level of mastery normally associated with entertainers who are significantly older. And in the process creating a community with a shared love of excellence, and a deep respect for each other.
Here’s hoping that today’s exceptional display of talent and teamwork is tomorrow’s new normal. This world has too many challenges for society to be underestimating its teenagers. Burbank High’s Pop Show 2018 is a reminder of what happens when a community takes young talent seriously.