CROFTON, Neb. — When they perform at their next concert, the Crofton High School choir wants to feel like a foreigner.
That’s Foreigner, as in the iconic rock band now touring the nation.
The Crofton singers learned Friday they won a competition providing the opportunity to sing with Foreigner at its March 30 concert in Sioux City. The band will perform at 8 p.m. in the Orpheum Theater.
The competition’s entrants were required to produce a video featuring the Foreigner song, "I Want To Know What Love is," according to Crofton vocal director Katie Kleinschmit.
"That’s the song that we’ll sing with the band during their concert in Sioux City," she said. "It worked out great that our one-act play had used ‘80s songs, and this was one of them. We were already familiar with the song and its lyrics."
Online voting determined which choir would win the coveted spot, Kleinschmit said. The deadline for voting ended at noon Friday, and Sioux City radio station Classic Rock 99.5 announced the winner on the air.
"We learned at noon that we won," the vocal director said. "We beat out the Siouxland All-City Show Choir from Sioux City."
The feat was a bit of a Samson-and-Goliath task, as Crofton has about 800 residents while Sioux City has around 80,000.
Just two hours after learning of their selection, Kleinschmit was on the phone talking with the band’s representative.
"We’re learning the details," she said. "Right now, we’re scheduled to come onto stage to sing the second-to-the-last song with Foreigner. Then, they’ll introduce the choir to the audience, and we’ll exit before they perform the final song."
The Crofton students won’t be the only local representatives on stage, Kleinschmit said.
"When we started this (contest), they said we could have 25 singers on stage," she said. "But the concert falls on Good Friday, which created problems for some of our students. We’ll send 18 students in our choir for the concert, and they said I could sing with them."
She’s not about to pass up the opportunity, especially with one very special person in the Orpheum audience.
"Every year, my mom and her friends have a ‘girls’ night out,’" she said. "When I told my mom that we were chosen for the Foreigner concert, she and her friends were already planning to go and had tickets."
The Crofton choir actually had a late start in the competition. Kleinschmit heard about the contest from a student’s parents. The Sioux City show choir had already completed its video and was uploaded when the contest opened Monday, March 12.
The Crofton school first heard about the contest that day and made the immediate decision to enter, Kleinschmit said.
"We got the choir together that Monday and asked them, ‘Do you want to do this?’’ she said. "A bunch of them said ‘Yes!’ We planned our video on Tuesday, but we had a number of students at the district speech contest on Wednesday. We recorded our video on Thursday and put it out there for online voting on the 15th."
The Crofton students took control of the situation. They created their video, coming up with the ideas for the choreography and background lighting.
The video opened with a close-up of senior Miles Bossman, who sang the opening stanzas. The scene then widened to show two rows of choir members, joining Bossman in singing the song. They swayed to the music, joined by other rows of students flashing cell phones for lighting.
The entire choir wore their robes for a colorful and unified look.
Bossman was attending the Nebraska state speech contest Friday and could not be reached for comment. However, other Crofton students said he stepped forward when the choir sought a soloist.
After that, the entire production fell into place, Kleinschmit said.
"We saw the Sioux City show choir had a major production, even using sign language," she said. "We were under the gun for time and kept it pretty simple. We shot it using my iPhone, and I panned the choir back and forth for the video. Then I uploaded it, and that was it."
Six choir members were in school Friday when they received the news of their win.
Hunter Neuhalfen, Jamis Hendrix, Julie Jones, Abby Steffen, Lauren Arens and Taylor Arens said they were pleased with the video when they saw the final product.
Besides their choir performances, some of the members hold other musical experience or aspirations.
Neuhalfen has performed with the band Self-Worth Is Overrated. Hendrix has sung with the Nebraska All-State Choir and wants to work in the entertainment field. Taylor Arens plans to study music performance in college.
The Arenses have sung with their St. Rose Catholic Church choir. In addition, Lauren Arens sang the national anthem at the start of country star Jerrod Niemann’s concert at the Knox County Fair in Bloomfield, Nebraska.
Neuhalfen said he normally doesn’t play Foreigner music when his band performs.
"I play lead guitar and sing with a punk rock/metal band," he said. "But I was familiar with Foreigner and knew the song that we had to sing. I studied it a little bit more to get the gist of it."
The choir members admitted the last two weeks of waiting for the voting outcome was particularly difficult.
"It was really nerve racking," Jones said.
The Sioux City show choir held the early lead because of its jump on the competition. But Crofton pulled even
"There would be only a two- or three-vote difference," Jones said, noting the razor-thin margin.
For Crofton, the online voting became more than the choir’s effort.
"We had friends, families — anyone — helping us with their votes," Jones said.
Eventually, Crofton pulled ahead, although Kleinschmit didn’t feel the lead was ever safe.
"I worried that the Sioux City choir would have a concert and ask everyone there to vote for them," she said. "It would have been an easy way for them to pick up hundreds of votes and win at the last minute."
Crofton High School principal Johnnie Ostermeyer even included voting reminders with his daily announcements.
In the end, Crofton prevailed with 2,110 votes, or about 500 more than their Sioux City competitors. Ostermeyer had the Classic Rock 99.5 station on the intercom during Friday’s lunch hour.
And then came the news that all of the Crofton choir members were awaiting.
Taylor Arens wasn’t totally surprised at the outcome.
"In a small town, they really support you. They do everything they can to help you," she said.
Now, the Crofton choir members are focusing on their upcoming appearance with Foreigner. Of the six students who spoke Friday with the Press & Dakotan, none of them had ever visited the historic Orpheum Theater, let alone perform on stage with a legendary rock band.
The Arenses even received permission from their St. Rose Church choir director to attend the Sioux City concert rather than sing at the Good Friday service as originally scheduled.
"We were told, ‘You will never get another chance to sing with Foreigner or do something like this again,’" Lauren Arens said.
Taylor Arens agreed. "This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience," she said.
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