The teen always told his choir directors that he was coming back for their jobs.
Jared Norman sang and danced his way through the Center Grove High School choir program all four years of high school.
He belted out tunes in the mixed choir and sang with the concert choir. With every song and performance, he imagined himself as the director of one of the choirs that helped him find his passion in high school.
His dream came true.
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Norman has been the director of the women’s show choir at Center Grove High School for three years. He got the job the fall after graduating DePauw University in Greencastle in 2012.
He is less than 10 years older than most of his students, yet he has led the competitive women’s choir to several grand champion wins in the past few years and hopes to help earn them a national championship in the Show Choir Nationals in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 26.
He is trying to make his mark on a decades-old program, a dream that sprouted when he was a fourth-grader in the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, he said.
For Norman, teaching where he was taught is the definition of his dream job, he said.
“It’s been surreal; it’s always been my dream job to work at Center Grove,” he said. “It was what shaped me as a performer on stage, I wanted to come back and have that influence.”
For decades, The Debtones and all the show choirs and concert choirs have been extremely competitive, said Jennifer Dice, choral director at the school.
When Norman took the position as director of The Debtones as a fresh college graduate three years ago, he was stepping into an already successful program, she said.
He wasn’t offered the job until the first day of school and began the next day, Dice said.
“That’s a pretty big deal for preparedness,” she said.
When the job became available, Dice and then director Chris Pratt remembered Norman’s work ethic as a student. Plus, he had strong recommendations from teachers he worked with as a student teacher, she said.
“What is ironic is he always said he was coming back for our jobs,” Dice said. “There is a point to be made. He is Center Grove through and through.”
While the Debtones have been successful, Norman decided that he had to take the women’s choir in a slightly different direction. He wanted to make the shows his own, he said.
The Debtones had always been known for their glitz and glamour. They had silky dresses and silky voices.
Norman made the decision to turn their shows into something closer to musical theater numbers.
“Because I grew up in Center Grove, I felt like I could keep the tradition,” he said.
But, part of moving the program forward and making the shows his own are making changes, he said.
The glitzy Debtones got a makeover for this year’s show choir show when they start the first half of their competition show dressed as peasant girls.
“Every year, you should change and evolve the show,” he said.
This is the first year he has made any real changes, Norman said.
His first two years on the job were spent surviving, trying to learn the ins and outs of teaching dozens of young women to sing and dance.
Now that he is more comfortable teaching, he decided to come up with a show that would shake the stereotype of the Debtones, he said.
So far, he has been successful.
The Debtones have won grand champion awards and caption awards at competitions this season.
His age and connection with the students is a trait that will allow the show choirs to grow, Dice said.
“This is the first year he has come into his own,” she said.
Dice no longer recruits personally in the middle school for competitive show choirs, instead leaving the show to Norman who has a better connection with the students.
Norman’s age has made him approachable as a show choir director, Grace Maher, a sophomore Debtone member said.
“He is experienced, but he can also connect with us and have fun with us,” she said.