Evolution is used to hearing show choirs chant “U-tah! U-tah!” when it walks into a competition.

“They all know where we’re from, and it’s really cool,” said Mallory Hewerdine, a senior and dance captain in Evolution, American Leadership Academy’s show choir.

Evolution is an oddity in the show choir world. The choir says it’s the only competing show choir in Utah, and it’s made a name for itself as it travels across the nation each spring in order to compete.

The choir has yet to compete in a competition where it hasn’t made it to finals.

The public charter school in Spanish Fork gained a show choir program after Rick Lunt, the director of the school’s vocal music program, left Spanish Fork High School in 2008.

Lunt was first introduced to show choirs during his first year of teaching in Arizona when he was at Disneyland and saw a show choir from Indiana perform.

“I remember watching their group and was dumbfounded by how good they were and how amazing they were,” Lunt said.

He was fascinated by how the groups gave singing, dancing and costumes their all.

“Show choir is its own sport and no one can really understand it until they see it, and even better, if you’re in it,” Lunt said.

Samuel Moore, now a senior and a dance captain for the choir, showed up to his first day of show choir boot camp unprepared for what he’d experience.

“It was really shocking for me because I’ve never done anything like it,” Moore said. “It’s like hardcore, constant dancing.”

Moore, who as a freshman struggled with dancing and never imagined he’d end up as a dance captain, was encouraged to try out for the team after Lunt saw him at a Chinese exchange camp.

While Moore originally found it overwhelming to have to concentrate on so many things at once, he said he’s learned life lessons like leadership by being on the choir.

“It’s worth it, every dollar, every moment you spend,” Moore said.

Hewerdine once considered transferring from American Leadership Academy, but the show choir, and the friendships she’s formed in it, kept her there.

“Once you become so close with something and some people, it’s really hard to leave and you honestly won’t get this type of group anywhere else,” she said.

Hewerdine said Evolution is often underestimated at competitions because Utah doesn’t have competitive show choirs. Even in state, other students don’t always know what it’s about.

“You see a choir and they wear the dresses and stand and sing, but with us, it’s very different,” she said.

Each year’s show has a storyline based on a movie. This year’s show is themed after the movie “Avatar” and includes songs such as Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” to teach about unity, equality and fighting for each other.

Lunt tries every year to have a better, smarter and more creative show.

The choir has 30 minutes to perform and set up and take down its set during competition. If it goes over, Evolution gets docked points. With Lunt’s shows lasting between 20 and 22 minutes, it’s a tight timeline for the techs.

“It just happens so fast that afterwards you are like, whoa, you can’t even remember anything,” said Miya Hayward, a senior and the choir’s head tech.

Hayward got involved with Evolution as a tech because she wanted to be around the show choir, but doesn’t sing or dance.

In addition to setting up and taking down sets, the techs also make sure props are where they need to be and help performers get on stage on time.

“We are the ones who make the show keep going,” Hayward said. “Without us, they couldn’t make it on stage because they can’t zip up their dresses.”

There’s about 50 students in the choir every year, several techs and about a dozen members in the band.

The choir is a big commitment, both financially and time wise, but has become a family to the students involved. Some of them have even made it official, with several students who sang together in show choir going on to get married to each other.

It’s a lot of work, but Lunt is thrilled to do it.

“It’s a blessing to me,” Lunt said. “I feel I learn so much from them and I’m just the coach on the sidelines that’s trying to push them as hard as they can in hopes they know they can be pushed further than I’m pushing them.”

Braley Dodson covers health and education for the Daily Herald.

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