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TV show 'Glee' inspires students about clubs

NEWARK, Del. — After a vocal warm-up, the middle school students began their rendition of "A Holly Jolly Christmas," some squirming in their seats as they sang, others sitting up straight at attention.

Accompanying them on the piano, music director Kelly Kline stopped the students a few verses into the song.

"It should be very exciting with some oomph," Kline said. "It's a little jazzier, so the rhythm is going to have a swing to it."

Newark Charter's newest music program, the glee club, started this semester, and students still are getting used to the music's non-traditional style, Kline said. She is one of several Delaware music directors who have started glee clubs this year, spurred by the popularity of the Emmy-nominated TV show "Glee."

The show, about an Ohio high school glee club and its misfit members, has generated enthusiasm among students who now think choruses and glee clubs are cool, Kline said. This is her first year as chorus director of the middle school, and as a way to get students more excited about participating in music, Kline said, she referenced the show in her advertisement for music auditions.

"More people want to be a part of the program because of this show," she said.

Talley Middle School choir director Beth Warfel said she developed the idea of starting a glee club last spring for the school's sixth- through eighth-graders. Glee clubs help get children interested in new musical genres, Warfel said.

"My thing with middle school kids is the only thing they think of is what's on the radio today," she said. "They will learn something about an era of music that comes before them."

Music director Jerry Birl of Sussex Academy of Arts and Sciences said this is his first year at the school and he wanted to restructure the chorus program.

He hopes the new format and addition of choreography will make the club more appealing to sixth- through eighth-graders, who he said have shown an interest in joining.

Birl said that although glee clubs sometimes compete, his program is about the music above all else.

"But really, it's not about competition," Birl said. "It's about coming together as a group to put on a performance you're proud of."

Lake Forest High School recently established a glee club under the direction of Mark Teesdale, music director for the district's Central Elementary School. He said the elementary school students he normally teaches show great interest in chorus, and he hopes students' enthusiasm persists throughout their school careers.

"Hopefully my program at the elementary school is feeding the middle school, which I hope is feeding the high school," Teesdale said.

He plans to incorporate a variety of musical genres into the high school glee club's routines, including pop, Latin, Broadway and African-American spirituals. He has the support of Superintendent Daniel Curry.

"I told him I want to see 'Glee' in a couple of years," Curry said.

Kline said that while she would not want her own fifth-grader to watch the show because of its mature plotlines, she likes how it promotes an appreciation for Broadway and the dramatic arts.

The Newark Charter students performed "Do-Re-Mi" from "The Sound of Music" during auditions, said Ben Scannell, 10, one of the club's members. Though he has been singing for a few years, Scannell said he was apprehensive about auditioning.

"I was nervous," Scannell said. "At first, I didn't even know if I made it."

Kline and Warfel plan on incorporating choreography into students' musical routines. Kline said she already has two eighth-grade student dancers scheduled to choreograph routines.

"I think giving the kids ownership of the choir makes it that more special," Kline said.

Warfel said about54 students auditioned for 36 spots in Talley Middle's glee club.

Gregory McKinnon, 12, said he joined the club because he enjoys singing and has been complimented on his voice for years.

"I never really believed it," McKinnon said. "But being one of the four boys, I kinda have to."