Westside Middle School Show Choir Students Perform National Anthem at UNO Basketball Games


Image courtesy of Westside Community Schools's Twitter

Select show choir students from Westside Middle School performed the national anthem at a UNO women’s basketball game in December.

Westside Middle School’s show choir Westside Connection was asked to perform at both a University of Nebraska Omaha girls and boys basketball game. 12 Girls from the show choir performed the National Anthem at the girls game on Dec. 29 and now 12 boys will perform at a boys game on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 12 p.m. Vocal Music instructor and Show Choir Director Nicholas Djernes helped these students prepare for the events. 

“We went in over winter break so they gave up their personal time which is really awesome,” Djernes said. “We came in, just the 12 of us, and we wrote our own [acapella] arrangement that fit their middle school range.”

Djernes said he had only one practice with the girl students to learn everything after writing an arrangement he felt fit their voices better than the original National Anthem that is sung at sports events. According to Djernes, some of the students didn’t know much about the song before the preparation. 

“Five of them didn’t know the words, they had no idea,” Djernes said. “In high school, you hear it at all your events, but in middle school they never really do it at the athletic events so a lot of these [students] don’t know.”

Before the December performance, Djernes said he and the students practiced in the middle school gym to see what they sounded like in an environment similar to where they were going to perform.  

“[We] warmed up in the gym to see how we sounded in the gym,” Djernes said. “Right after they finished, the parents jaws dropped, [they thought] ‘that sounds amazing.’” 

Djernes said that for their December performance, he and the students were able to see the teams warming up from a courtside view; something that he said he thinks the students enjoyed.  

“I think they had fun being right in the court level,” Djernes said. “We went out there to set up where we were going to stand and [the] procedure [for the performance]. While we were doing that, the teams were out warming up and it was just kind of neat to be down in the adrenaline rush of it; down in the exciting part.”

Eighth graders Leah Filips and Lakelyn Joslin performed at the UNO girls basketball game. Both said that they feel very confident about their performance and had fun. 

“I really enjoyed when we went on stage on the court and all the lights were on us,” Filips said. “It was a really great experience because it was really fun and I felt really important.”

Djernes said he felt the students exceeded the expectations even with all the challenges they had with the piece along with their age. 

“I think they [exceeded] what I thought [was going to happen],” Djernes said. “It’s not that I don’t believe we have talented kids, we have some of the most talented, skilled musicians in the state in our middle school; it’s such a challenging piece to try and pull off.”