Varsity Singers prepare for annual 'Pomp & Plenty' as Wenning celebrates 25th year

John Wenning (seated) directs the Huntington North High School Varsity Singers as they rehearse their show on Thursday, Nov. 12, in preparation for the “Pomp & Plenty” dinner and concert to be held on Nov. 21-22.
John Wenning (seated) directs the Huntington North High School Varsity Singers as they rehearse their show on Thursday, Nov. 12, in preparation for the “Pomp & Plenty” dinner and concert to be held on Nov. 21-22. Photo by Matt Murphy.

The singing of 43 Huntington North High School students fills the hallways near the school's auditorium as the Varsity Singers prepare their show for the 21st annual "Pomp & Plenty" Dinner concert, to be held Nov. 21 and 22.

The group has performed around the country and has been featured in national events from official show choir competitions in Chicago to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

Now, the group's director, John Wenning, is celebrating his 25th year as the Varsity Singers' leader.

"When I first came, there were about 17 kids," Wenning says. "I took the group pretty far in the first two years."

When Wenning took over in 1985, the group had not competed in four years. Wenning quickly changed that, taking the Varsity Singers to Kings Island and Ball State University in 1985 and 1986.

In 1987, Wenning continued the competition trend, taking the singers to the Showstoppers national show choir competition in Chicago, which he says at the time was the only major national show choir competition.

"Since then, we've grown to a group that has won multiple awards in singing, choreography, stage crew and orchestra," he says. "We've taken multiple grand championships each year."

The group's success has not gone unnoticed.

This year, Wenning was contacted by FAME events, an organization that produces national show choir competitions across the country, asking the Varsity Singers to participate in FAME's 2010 Chicago competition.

"The significant thing is that (FAME) contacted us," Wenning says. "They wanted us; we didn't have to submit a resume or an application like the other schools."

The Varsity Singers have also been offered a spot to perform at the Cinderella Castle at Disney World. Wenning says that when the Huntington North group performed at the park in 2008, the production director offered the group a spot to perform at the Castle - an offer given to only two or three groups each year.
Though the group cannot make the trip this year due to cost, it is something Wenning is keeping in mind.

Despite the acclamation the group has received from professionals around the country, one of the more local benefits is the impact Varsity Singers has on students.

"Good work ethic is being taught," says Wenning. "Students are learning not only to respect persons helping them, but also themselves. We encourage each other on the path to a common goal."

Alumni of the program attest to the benefits of Varsity Singers.

"It pays off big," says Angie Garcia, a 1986 graduate. "It teaches you a lot about teamwork and about yourself at the same time. I loved every minute of it."

Garcia says that her first year in Varsity Singers was also Wenning's first year at Huntington North.

"I think highly of (Wenning). He teaches students exactly what they need," she says.

The Huntington North High School Varsity Singers will hold the "Pomp & Plenty" dinner concert on Saturday, Nov. 21. The singers will also hold two matinee shows on Sunday, Nov. 22.

Tickets for both events are available by calling 356-9088.

Saturday night's performance will also include Varsity Singer alumni, and both shows will feature the 25th anniversary that Wenning has been part of the program.