Clinton High School’s award-winning show choir celebrates 42 years with star-studded homecoming
Lance Bass was just another freshman at Clinton High School in 1994 when he auditioned for Attaché, the school’s award-winning show choir. Just a year later, he was a member of the “boy band” vocal group *NSYNC and was on his way to becoming a teen pop icon.
It’s no coincidence that he spent the time learning to use his voice and performing under the guidance of David and Mary Fehr in what became known as a showbiz bootcamp and de facto finishing school. .
“When I joined Attaché, I didn’t dance at all, I had never danced in my life. I’m so glad I got to experience this for a few years because if I hadn’t been able to learn the choreography within a certain amount of time there would be no way I would have could do *NSYNC. -Lance Bass
Nashville singer-songwriter Shelly Fairchild – who has three solo albums to her credit, has appeared on records by Jason Aldean, Eric Church and Terri Clark, and has successfully carved out a place for herself placing songs in TV shows – had a similar experience after joining Attaché as a shy teenager. So does Broadway star Heath Calvert, known for his roles in “Hair” and “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”
The three Clinton High School and Attaché alumni, along with the addition of fellow alumni Brittany Wagner, Netflix’s ‘Last Chance U’ star Drew Wardlaw and Max Lyall, appeared on stage at the Attaché Alumni Theater from Clinton High School on April 2.
The show in four acts celebrated the 42n/a Attaché anniversary by bringing alumni back on stage to raise funds to support the program, which has won the Grand Champion title in 85 competitions since 1992. The band’s current streak of 23 consecutive Grand Champion victories dates back to 2014, and their 2019 bid was captured in “Attaché,” a documentary film from PBS and Reel South.
Bass, in his first Attaché appearance since *NSYNC debuted as the group’s opening act in December 1995, served as host and emcee for the evening. After learning to sing in a church choir and while receiving additional guidance from Fehr via Attaché, Bass began vocal instruction with Bob Westbrook in Germantown, Tennessee – the same vocal coach used by Justin Timberlake and the man who introduced him to Bass when *NSYNC was looking for a bass vocalist.
Although Bass’ time at Attaché was relatively brief, it opened his eyes to his own talents and changed the course of his life. But much of the inspiration he felt came from watching his classmates. “I have to do ‘West Side Story’ with Shelly Fairchild,” he said. “She was our Maria, and god damn it, we knew then she was going to do something. She was so talented. I was just a freshman then and it was so new to me; I didn’t I just couldn’t believe high school students could be so talented.
Fairchild found success when she moved to Nashville and signed a recording contract with Sony in 2004. The label released her debut album, Ride, the following year, and sent Fairchild on a whirlwind of promotions, including radio appearances and concert tours with country music stars Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and Rascal Flatts. But her journey began when she arrived at Attaché around the same time as the Fehrs, who took over after founder Winona Costello retired.
“The first year I was there, Mr. David Fehr was our new manager,” says Fairchild. “I’ll never forget him coming up to us as we were learning some of the songs and screaming in my face, like, ‘Open your mouth, Fairchild!’
“To this day,” she adds, “people will ask me, ‘How the hell can you sing from your toes to the top of your head?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, if you had David Fehr as your director, you’d understand why your whole body is involved in this.’ So that really made a big difference in my life.
Fairchild remembers when Fehr brought then-freshman Heath Calvert into the group — an unprecedented move, since membership was generally open to sophomores and up. He had just moved to Clinton, and while his manners weren’t disrespectful — he didn’t say “sir” or “ma’am” like most of his new peers, Fehr says — they were a hard sell to his professors. He had accumulated nine detentions for such minor infractions, and one more would suspend him from school and activities.
“I went ahead and gave him his 10th detention so that he could serve his sentence someday. It was so he wouldn’t miss the upcoming performances,” Fehr laughs.
On April 2, the alumni performed solo, in pairs, and in groups throughout the three-hour program. Calvert performed “If Only I Had a Brain” from The Wizard of Oz and “Anthem” from the musical “Chess,” while current Attaché students performed their 2022 competition showcase, “Vacation!” Bass and Wagner joined the chorus for a number of songs.
The third act, however, was about the Fehr. Fairchild released “What We Leave,” a song she wrote especially for the event, featuring a duet with her sister, Lindsey Fairchild Lenoir. The performance came as a surprise to the Fehrs, organizers, and audience, but current students were on board; Fairchild recruited a friend’s daughter to pass the lyrics around to them so they could join her on the song’s finale.
Although Attaché provides the platform for students to explore their talents, they also learn life skills, Fehr points out. The work ethic is crucial to the success of students performing and those running the show after graduation. another is perseverance. Fehr recalls a competition in California where Wagner performed while suffering from a broken finger she suffered during warm-ups, a display of courage and determination that audiences would later see on “Last Luck U”.
“It’s not the time you put into something, it’s the quality of the work you put into it… Everyone says they work hard. Well, no, some people just waste a lot of time, [unless they are] to work with a purpose or to understand what [they’re] work towards. -David Fehr
“We just produce good kids; talent and desire come from good families,” he adds. “Don’t attribute that to the Attaché. I can develop everything that exists and help them, but these families and these children have goals and missions, and my job is to help them. But the 90% that don’t go into the arts, they still get the same thing.
— Article credit to Jim Beaugez of Mississippi Today —