PERU - The recording industry has long frowned upon lip synching, but in the Peru Central School District, it's become an art form.
Students have been mouthing the words to some of their favorite songs for the past 25 years, said teacher Diane Menard, one of the founders of Lip Sync, a Peru Middle School/High School talent show. Menard and former Peru Central teacher Laura Marlow were co-producers of the event in 1985, seeing hundreds of acts performed over the years.
"It's always been a free-for-all for music," said Menard. "We used to make it a competition and have three winners in the high school and three in the middle school, but then, over the last few years, some of the kids thought they should win every year and if they didn't they got upset."
The solution? Making it more of a talent showcase than a competition.
"Now, we recognize all the seniors who participate with a trophy with their name on it and, in May, we have a pizza party for everyone who participated in the show," said Menard, adding underclassmen also receive a medal and certificate of participation. "Everybody comes away a winner," she said.
There's much preparation for a show of this magnitude, said Menard.
Especially since this year's theme is music from the 1950s and '60s - an era which none of the students or some of their parents were even around for when it happened.
When students learned of the theme, Menard said some felt clueless. However, she brought in samples of music to help bridge that connection and make some students realize they had heard that music before - just not in the same way.
An example, said Menard, is how one act will consist of a performance of by The Lovin' Spoonful's "Do You Believe in Magic" - with a slightly different twist.
"They're going to do the version by Aly & AJ," said Menard, referring to a teen pop duo most popular for their affiliation with The Disney Channel. "A lot of the kids don't realize they know songs from the '50s and '60s, but they do. Some of them are just updated versions."
Though Menard has been working on this year's program since December, some students began working on their performances well before that, she said.
"We have some kids who begin practicing at the beginning of the school year, depending on how into it they are," said Menard. And, many students really get into it. The acts don't traditionally consist of a student or group of students simply standing at a microphone. In fact, it's quite normal to see choreography worked into their routine, complete with costumes.
Hunter Sartwell and a group of his fellow sixth-graders were practicing on-stage recently. The four will be performing "My Girl" by the legendary Motown recording group, The Temptations, in tuxedos provided by College Formals in Plattsburgh.
"We've watched the on-line video well over a hundred times," Sartwell said of The Temptations' performance.
"I'm very excited and nervous," added Sartwell. "We have no experience whatsoever."
Eighth-grader Shania Howard doesn't either.
"It's my first year [in the show]," said Howard. "It's very nerve-wracking but I think it's also exciting."
Howard and her stage partner Karri Kusalonis, also an eighth grade student, will be performing Lesley Gore's "It's My Party."
"I'm excited ... a little nervous," said Kusalonis, who has performed in the show twice before.
Regardless of how they ultimately perform, Menard said she's amazed by what students put into the event year after year, adding she's especially excited for the effort their putting into the show's silver anniversary.
"I told the kids we need to make this a big one because I'm not going to be around for the 50th," laughed Menard.
The 25th anniversary show will be held next Saturday, March 19, in the Peru Central Middle/High School Auditorium on School Street. The show will begin at 7 p.m. and refreshments will be served in the lobby from an old-fashioned milkshake stand.
The cost of a ticket is $7. Advance ticketholders will be eligible for door prizes at the end the show.
"We try to include everyone in the fun," said Menard.
For more information, including how to purchase tickets in advance, contact Menard at 643-6301 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.