Zionsville Show Choirs Welcomes Sam Chenoweth
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Submitted
What is undoubtedly a loss for Carmel High School’s performing arts department is an outstanding gain for Zionsville Show Choirs and the entire Zionsville community. Sam Chenoweth, former associate director of choirs at CHS, is now a choral director for Zionsville Community High School and Zionsville resident along with his fiancée, Laura.
Chenoweth’s duties at CHS included directing/co-directing five curricular choirs, leading two musical theater courses and directing the annual musical. Chenoweth, a freelance show choir choreographer, clinician and adjudicator, is a graduate cum laude of Ball State University, where he received a Bachelor of Science in music education.
He served as production assistant/choreographer for the internationally recognized Ball State University Singers collegiate show choir and was music director of The Prism Project, an arts program for secondary students with autism.
In addition to his achievements at Ball State University, Chenoweth has choreographed for more than a dozen competitive high school, junior high and unisex groups throughout the Midwest, and many of his groups have received awards for Best Choreography, Best Vocals and Best Show Design, as well as Grand Champion honors.
During his time at CHS, Chenoweth directed the musicals “The Little Mermaid,” “Edges” and “Bring It On: The Musical,” bringing modern and high-tech components to each production while honoring much of the original scores.
“My position at Carmel High School just happened to be the opportunity right out of the gate, which was awesome,” Chenoweth said. “I had big shoes to fill.”
The bar had been raised by his predecessors and colleagues at CHS, which motivated Chenoweth to raise the bar even higher in terms of creating challenging vocal and production opportunities with thoughtful musical selections that would push the students and exhilarate audiences.
Chenoweth reflected, “We wanted to do something Disney and family-friendly, but we didn’t want it to just be a Disney-type show, so we had to reinvent it a little bit.”
Chenoweth’s students owned the stage throughout the production of “The Little Mermaid,” not only with impressive vocal performances but also with their abilities on skates, hoverboards and other contraptions that were used to emulate movements and dancing under the sea.
This past spring, Chenoweth directed “Bring It On: The Musical,” and while it did not boast the strong name recognition as the previous two shows at CHS, Chenoweth feels that it is one that his students connected with the most, being high school students performing a show about the daily issues of high school-age kids. The choreography and the stage sets were beyond impressive and challenging.
“We had 300 lights on that stage, and as far as the score is concerned, I did not reinvent our production of ‘Bring It On’ at all,” Chenoweth stated. “I thought what was done on Broadway was really well done, and we did edit for time, but in terms of visual design and all that, we stayed pretty true to the original, and it worked out pretty well.”
With the two schools, Zionsville and Carmel, being in such close proximity to one another, it did not take long for the work to get out that Chenoweth was leaving Carmel and not only coming on board at ZCHS but moving to the community as well.
“It’s been an interesting transition, but everyone that I have met with has been very supportive,” he expressed. “I knew the day that I came [to Zionsville] for my second interview that once I left the room full of students that I had just worked with, someone would grab a phone and text somebody, and sure enough, as soon as I got back to school [CHS], one of my students came up to me and asked if I had just been over at Zionsville. It’s been a blessing, though, because the Carmel kids have talked with the students here in Zionsville and have shared their thoughts and experiences, so they helped introduce me to the students here.”
Chenoweth emphasized that he is excited to work with his new colleagues: Aaron Coates, Deana Broge and Anne Beck.
“I am looking forward to the chance to lead and be a core piece of the program’s future and to being able to exercise my vision while leaning on the people who know the kids better and have been leading a successful program all these years,” Chenoweth said. “Since the musical is in the fall, I won’t have a full year to get to know the kids and will rely a lot on Anne, Deana and Aaron’s knowledge of the students.”
Fun Facts about Sam
Name a show that you haven’t directed but must at some point?
“Big Fish.” It is one of my favorite shows, and the music is brilliant. I’ve seen one high school production of it and would love to do that show sometime. I’d also like to do “Tarzan” and have a ridiculous set and “Starlight Express” with the Rollerblades and things that are visually stimulating to bring a “wow” factor to the audience.
What are your favorite hobbies when you aren’t teaching?
I like camping. I try to get out [into nature] quite a bit. It’s just relaxing to get away, leave the phone in the car and unplug and relax.
What is the one musical that everyone needs to see before they leave this Earth?