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New book chronicles the history of show choir in extraordinary detail

The new book "Sweat, Tears, and Jazz Hands" hits stores this September.

By Häakon
Published: Aug 02, 2011

Mike Weaver
LOS ANGELES, Calfornia — Show choir has been around a long time, despite its recent introduction into popular culture thanks to the hit TV show "Glee." And like any art form, it is a constantly evolving, forever changing entity. So where did it truly begin? What defines show choir in different areas of the country? It's a broad subject for sure, but one that has been tackled meticulously in the forthcoming paperback "Sweat, Tears, and Jazz Hands: The Official History of Show Choir from Vaudeville to Glee" by Mike Weaver and Colleen Hart. I sat down with this dynamic duo to get to the bottom of this truly unique and very special release. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today! I must say, as someone who has spent over a decade cataloguing and archiving show choir history and records myself, this book is absolutely fascinating to me. How did you two come to co-author a book about show choir?

Colleen: I have always had a love for writing and books. And, like many others, I have had a long-term pipe dream of one day becoming an author. Then reality sank in and bills came, and I came to love a more stable job force in public relations that also appreciated my love of writing.
And then "Glee" appeared. While of course I was overjoyed and DVRing the sitcom weekly, I was amazed at the response that friends and co-workers, in their mid-20s, had to this show. Everyone was suddenly admitting to being a part of a show choir or wishing they had been in a show choir. As a former eight-year show choir member myself, I realized, there is more of the story to tell here. There is more to show choirs than "Glee"... and right now, we have millions of people who are captivated by this phenomenon.

What was once a pipe dream I started to think of more seriously. I contacted my former choreographer (and current co-author), Mike Weaver, who I knew was still active within the industry to set up a meeting to talk about some story ideas. I had a title, "Sweat, Tears and Jazz Hands," the ability to write and determination to make it happen. And as it turns out, Mike shared that determination - and had an amazing amount of content.

We started talking and brainstorming... and then in a few weeks we had a proposal, which we sent to Hal Leonard with our fingers crossed. Then came back to us in six months asking us to write a Table of Contents and a first chapter. Once they saw our material and liked our style, they gave us a book deal and six months to finish it. That's really where really our love for jazz hands met the sweat and the tears. 

It was all worth it though. To see our hard work on paper is an amazing feeling - and we're really excited to share this book with the show choir community and beyond.

Mike: About ten years ago I did a research project for the American Choral Directors association tracing the history of show choir to Fred Waring. I ended up writing this 50 page expose on the roots of show choir – which was floating around the internet for awhile. Very dry, matter-of-fact, academic and informative, but not entertaining to read. When Colleen first approached me about a book project, I think it was more of a biography idea, which I wasn’t really into... I’m quite sure I’m boring, for one thing!

Within a few swapped Facebook messages and a conversation over coffee on Chicago’s Rush Street, Colleen and I came to the same conclusion – this book needed to be fun, coffee-table size, full of facts and photos and sidebars. We also came to understand what we could each bring to the project. I provided the content, the interviews and historical information and Colleen provided the tone and style of the language.

What drove me to work on this project was the desire to compile the history of this genre into a concise and easy to use format. Anyone with a love of history and show business will find this book full of fascinating tidbits – and all related to show choir. Of course, I’ve always been a History Channel fan. I like getting to the bottom of how this or that happened, who did it and why. And I love show choir, so it didn’t take much effort from Colleen to get me excited about writing a book.

SCC: It sounds absolutely fantastic. What do you want people to take from this book?

Mike: I’ve learned one thing from choreography – all you can do is aim and hope to hit the right mix of style, originality and “meaning.” I hope readers find these stories and photos to be not only interesting, but also inspiring and affirming. For one thing, reader may be surprised at the never-before published family trees of influential groups, events and director/choreographer teams, as well as a United States map showing a stickpin for over 1000 US show choirs.

Colleen: At the end of the day, we want people to see show choirs in an even newer light; to appreciate the full story and give them all the credit they deserve. As I say in my section of the forward, this book highlights the influential milestones throughout pop culture and pop music history that helped develop the show choirs today. We hope that, upon turning the final page of this book, readers will gain insight into this bedazzled world and realize that, while outside factors are affecting the world of show choirs, show choirs themselves are, more importantly, shaping many individual lives.

SCC: There's no question that this book is the first of its kind and it sounds to be an absolute wealth of interesting information. What a treat. Where can we pick up a copy?

Mike: It will be available nationally in September, or you can just preorder it from here: Preorder: "Sweat, Tears, and Jazz Hands: The Official History of Show Choir

SCC: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your work with us! I know the level of quality you put into everything you do, and I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I am greatly looking forward the release of the book.


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