K-State Singers musical ambassadors of Kansas State University
By Michelle Hall
Public relations can mean sponsoring a charitable event or letting the media know about a new product, project or program. But at Kansas State University it also means singing and performing.
The K-State Singers have been the "singing ambassadors" of Kansas State University since 1954, and are celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2004. The group is made up of 12 vocalists, a percussionist, a bass guitarist, a pianist and a sound technician. None of the students are music majors.
"Music majors are expected to be in other ensembles and just wouldn't have the time," explained Gerald Polich, the group's longtime director. "The K-State Singers all have performed before. They're good enough to be music majors, they're just not."
Shane Thoreson, Marysville, a member of the K-State Singers and a junior in kinesiology/pre-health professions, said he's always been interested in performing for people. He was in his high school's show choir and has performed in musicals as well.
"I knew I wanted to continue with some sort of choir in college," said Thoreson, who is also the group's business manager. "I first saw the Singers perform at a scholarship luncheon. The group seemed to have a lot of fun on stage and it was exactly the type of thing I wanted to do."
The show choir combines singing, dancing and instrumental talents in each performance, where they present jazz, soft rock, folk music and Broadway favorites. The group rehearses for two hours each day and devotes about half a day to most of their trips.
The K-State Singers put on about 35 performances each year and bring their act all over the state of Kansas, for arts associations, annual dinners and business meetings. They also have performed across the nation, and even the globe at world's fairs, United Service Organizations, or USO tours, national meetings, and at Sea World and Disney World.
Thoreson, who has been in the group for two years now, said even with all the long hours on the road the singers still always manage to have fun.
"I like the people," he said. "Everyone is happy to be in the group. They like to perform and represent K-State."
Laura Buessing, Baileyville, a member of the K-State Singers and a junior in food and nutrition-exercise science, said she couldn't imagine college life without the Singers.
"I love the chemistry of the group," she said. "These people are some of my best friends." Buessing, who is also the dance manager of the group, said she enjoys singing, dancing and performing, but went to a small high school and never had the opportunity to join a group like the K-State Singers, which she has been a part of for two years. She took vocal lessons in high school and also has participated in community musicals in her hometown.
The K-State Singers have auditions in the spring of each year -- usually during April before the final show of the year. Although the group travels for many of its performances, they also present three concerts on campus each year.
The K-State Singers were one of the first public relations-based singing groups in the nation. Now, even most high schools have them, Polich said. He has been the group's director for 38 years; the K-State Singers have only had two directors in their history.
Buessing said she thinks the K-State Singers are important because they represent K-State well.
"The students that make up the K-State Singers are involved, hardworking students," she said. "Each individual is a great representative for K-State."
For more information on the K-State Singers, go to http://www.k-state.edu/kssingers/
Photo courtesy the K-State Singers.