Inspired by the hit show Glee, KW Glee is the brainchild of Producer & Music Director Steve Lehmann and Artistic Director Amanda Kind. We spoke to Amanda to find out the secret behind the group’s success.
Q: What aspect of the TV show inspired you to form KW Glee?
A: It’s very much like a sports team – except it’s for the performing arts. Right when the TV show was in its first season, my co-worker Steve Lehmann and I thought “wouldn’t it be great if there was something like this show in the community” and we started to build on that idea and auditioning our first group in early 2010.
What we love about it is it’s a way for singers to work with each other in a choral fashion that isn’t classical. If you’re looking to sing Bach or Beethoven or Mozart, there are lots of opportunities for Waterloo region. But there really hasn’t been an outlet for kids to sing music that they’re hearing on the radio and that is a part of their life.
Q: What is the auditioning process like?
A: We do audition twice a year. People usually just come in and sing one pop song. We focus mostly on singing during the audition, and work on their dancing once the new group has been selected.
Q: How has the experience been?
A: It’s unbelievable how much we have grown. We had our five year anniversary in January and we have gone from performing a show every six months in a church to performing in venues like the Dunfield Theatre and St. Jacob’s Country Playhouse, to just having performed a very large concert with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony at Centre In The Square.
We’re really proud of the fact that we take the top talent from every high school and combine it in to one group and then we teach people to work together to build their skills. We hire a professional band, so it’s just like performing with the best and brightest rock musicians out there. These musicians are people who’ve performed with stars like Serena Ryder and Carly Rae Jepsen. We hire them twice a year to perform with our kids so they’re working with the top musicians. We have several choreographers on staff who are professional dancers – it’s a multi-layered thing. You audition based on your singing ability and if you get in, then you start to hone your dancing ability and your form and skills.
Q: How has KW Glee impacted the community?
A: The kids who are going through our program are having a really big impact on the future of arts in this area. We’re starting to amass alumni who are doing their own amazing things. One of the biggest performing arts program in Canada is the Sheridan Musical Theatre program and we have seven alumni who are there right now. In addition, alumni AJ Bridell is the lead in Wizard of Oz right now.
Q: How do you choose what songs will be featured in the group’s repertoire?
A: We do two terms every year and for every term, we pick a theme. Sometimes, it has been a decade, like an 80’s theme. Our current theme is School of Pop, which is a selection of current Top 40 pop songs which have a teachable moment. For example, our show opener is Mariana’s Trench’s “Pop 101”.
Q: What’s in the works for KW Glee this year?
A: We’re headed off to Toronto to compete in the Show Choir Canada National Competition on April 11. We’re spending a lot of time honing the five numbers in our set for the competition right now.
We will also have a full concert at the Dunfield Theatre on June 3rd-6th and they’re already 90% sold out.
Q: What’s your vision for the future?
A: I hope we’ll continue to create high-quality shows and foster this environment of learning so that the kids can go on to pursue careers in the arts, as well as building kids who have a strong love for the arts. We’re not just trying to build the performers; we’re trying to build the leaders of tomorrow.