Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009 | 6:23 p.m.
Students typically excel at academics and sports to stand out and turn heads. But it's Palo Verde High School's show choir that has audiences around the world singing its praises.
Vocal Infinity comprises 25 sophomores, juniors and seniors who represent Palo Verde at choir competitions and school activities along with business conventions and community events.
Named the top high school choir in the nation in 2007, Vocal Infinity has garnered a classroom full of awards from regional and district festivals, appeared on the best of high school choir compilation albums in 2002 and 2006 and has performed in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and at the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.
Around Las Vegas the group is easily recognized by members' Palo Verde, green, black and silver windbreakers. Senior Sara Schroeder said she's often mistaken for a member of the basketball or track team. But once she mentions the choir's name, "it's like, 'Oh yeah, I was at one of your performances' or my favorite is people know your jacket. You'll be walking down the street and people will recognize you from TV."
Teacher and director Lesa Ramirez formed the group 11 years ago after former principal Theresa Smith asked her for a student organization that would cast a positive spotlight on the school.
Early members decided they didn't want to sing just Broadway, or just madrigal or a cappella. They had range and wanted to show it off, Ramirez said. That inspired the name because there are infinite vocal possibilities.
The group is plucked from the best of the school's five other choirs. A few had to audition two or three times and all are able to sight read music.
Besides singing, the group also chooses a charity to help every year. This year, members raised money to purchase printer cartridges for J.T. McWilliams Elementary School. Because of budget constraints, the school had printers but no ink. The singers raised about $1,500 in six months.
"We all put so much passion into every thing that we do, even if its not singing," senior Amanda Eakins said. "Even when it's helping somebody out or going out and talking to the veterans and somebody we're singing for, there's so much passion that's behind it that it makes you a better person in general."
Vocal Infinity also has impressed international audiences. It makes a European trip every other year and toured Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Russia last year.
The group performed at a cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia, and even after more than an hour of singing, the audience requested, or rather demanded, an encore.
"Where they were seating us (after the concert) was actually underground and we could still hear the audience applauding like three or four floors above," senior Josh Keating said. "They loved us so much."
Many of the choir's former members attended colleges with respected music programs and some went on to become professional performers, Ramirez said.
"This group has given us a purpose," senior Claire Curriden said. "There are so many teenagers that float through high school and this group gives us somewhere to go and something to do."
One member is a singer in a band that has an agreement to record with a record label, Ramirez said. Keating performs around town with his father, Ken Keating, and along with junior Ernest Landrito, was selected for this year's National High School Honor Choir.
Individually or as a group, the students share the same goal, Longoria said.
"We're 25 different people brought together by one common purpose — making music," she said.
Jeff Pope can be reached at 990-2688 or [email protected].