Three years ago, the Franklin Community High School choir didn’t enter competitions. This year they are setting school records.

The school’s women’s choir, Bella Voce, and mixed choir, Signature, were named runners-up at the Indiana State School Music Association’s State Concert Choir finals at Pike High School on Saturday. The placings are the best ever for the school, said Michael Hummel, choir director.

Achieving the honor has had its challenges, he said. The school’s choirs have students who hadn’t sung before joining the choir. Some students can’t make evening rehearsals because of jobs, clubs and sports.

In just 45 minutes a day and an occasional evening rehearsal, the choir program went from having occasional performances to traveling across the Midwest for competitions. The groups took home grand champion awards at a competition in St. Louis and placed in the top eight and top 16 at district competitions to earn a bid to state.

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Just three years ago, choirs from the school didn’t compete at all. Students would learn songs for a performance, and that was it, Hummel said.

“No one competed here,” he said.

When Hummel was hired three years ago, he decided to change that.

“The level here when I started was good; it was a good foundation,” he said. “You have to know the ability of your groups.”

At concert choir contests, students don’t dance, do lifts or wear glitzy costumes; they win on singing talent and preparation. The key to turning a previously unseasoned choir into a champion is to give the members the confidence they need and to have a solid foundation for the basics, Hummel said.

“Our students can stand toe-to-toe with the bigger groups,” he said. “No one wants to be a part of a group that isn’t exciting and isn’t fun.”

Each group that competed at state had to pick two songs from a list of about 100 to perform, Hummel said.

Hummel credits part of the success to having college professors come in and work with students. Teachers from Indiana University, Purdue University and Anderson University taught the students and gave them tips during an evening rehearsal.

He said he also tries to get his students on more stages before they compete for a state championship.

“They really help to prepare the group,” Hummel said.

If you go

What: Concert choir performance

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Franklin Community High School, 2600 Cumberland Road.

Tickets: $8 for general admission and $6 for students.

Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2770.