The JSU Center Stage Performance Ensemble caught national attention and received a class promotion within the first week of their competition season.
After nearly two months of preparing their performance, “As it is in Heaven,” the ensemble premiered their show February 6 at the Winter Guard International Nashville Regional.
They advanced to finals, were awarded a first place finish in their class and earned the highest score in the nation, despite not having costumes, show flags or an official mat.
Mason Fox, a two-year veteran and the rest of the ensemble did not know a board of judges from the national level noticed their production.
The board decided that the group no longer belonged to Independent A class, but in Independent Open instead, a more advanced class. This has happened one another time in Center Stage’s history.
“We were excited to have done so well,” said Fox.
Directors Rodney Bailey and Shannon Smith received an email confirming the board’s promotion of the group.
“At first, I was terrified. But Mr. Bailey kept reassuring us that it was a good thing,” said Alyssa Burnette, a first-year member of the ensemble.
It was not the first time that the group had been promoted. Ten years ago, their production “Candlelight” advanced from Independent A to Open class.
The group revamped parts of their 2016 show to make it more competitive for the higher class. Burnette said she was nervous.
“I thought [Mr. Bailey] was going to rewrite work that I wasn’t capable of doing, though now that thought sounds ridiculous,” she said.
The ensemble advanced to finals and won first in their new class at the next regional competition in Pensacola February 27.
Shannon Smith, co-director of the ensemble, said that watching the group perform reminds her of what joy is.
“I can feel the energy being thrown back at me when they take the floor in competition,” Smith said.
In April, the ensemble will continue to local circuit championships in Chattanooga, and then to national championships in Dayton, Ohio.
“I’m really proud of us and how far we’ve come. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season to see how much we can still improve. At the end of the day, I’m just really happy to be here, performing with my Center Stage family,” Burnette said.