Music reigned all day Saturday as about 20 high school show choirs from around the region were at Scottsbluff High School for the 37th annual Old West Choir Fest. It’s an educational day for choirs and sometimes, it might suggest a possible career choice.

That’s what happened for Nikki Bunnell, who was a member of the Alliance High School show choir, when they performed during the Choir Fest.

“I’ve always loved music and singing,” Bunnell said. “Going into music was a clear choice for me.”

After earning an education degree from Chadron State College, Bunnell now directs the Limited Edition show choir at Mitchell High School and teaches vocal music in grades 7-12, and does the choreography on several of the songs the choir performs.

Because she also teaches music in grades K-4 in Mitchell, organization is vital to assure that rehearsals run smoothly and on time.

“My day is usually rushed as I head over to the high school for my last class of the day,” Bunnell said. “I have a co-worker who helps get class started while I travel between schools.”

Bunnell said that because graduation is always changing what voices are available for the show choir, she starts with auditioning incoming freshmen at the start of the school year.

“I think that really helps the program to have students for several years because of the connection it builds between all of us,” she said.

Bunnell said she really enjoys Old West Choir Fest because it’s local and gives her the chance to talk music and share ideas with other music teachers from around the area.

John Plasencio, a junior member of Mitchell’s Limited Edition show choir, said the Choir Fest is a fun time for showing his peers what they’re doing. Plus it’s a nice time to just “hang out” and listen to some great choir music.

Fellow choir member Kaitlyn Newton, also a junior, said on occasion they give suggestions for the kinds of songs they’d like to do. However, the final decision comes from the director.

Both Plasencio and Newton agree they like performing older rock music the best, especially the ones with a fast tempo.

“Most kids in school have a study hall the last period of the day, so that’s when we rehearse,” Plasencio said. “We’ll run through the songs together before dividing into sections to work on parts.”

Hosted by the music department at Scottsbluff High School, the Old West Choir Fest runs throughout the day Saturday. That evening, the highest scored choirs from five divisions come to perform in the Best of the Fest show.

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at

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