Members of Marietta High School's Premiere show choir began singing and dancing again this week, following weeks with no director and what looked like an end for the longtime program.
Former director Peter Sour has returned to the position after learning that the choir had become inactive, despite continued interest from students.
"It kind of tugged at my heartstrings," he said. "Any music program is really all about the kids and teaching them to perform and giving them all these valuable tools for the future."
Before Sour returned, high school and district administrators had been unable to find a replacement for Scott Rieder, who left the position after one year, despite making pleas to current employees, posting the job throughout the state and raising the director salary.
The students signed up for the program hadn't held their after-school sessions since school began, although they continued to get together for sleepovers and picnics and kept their fingers crossed that Premiere would be back.
Premiere member and senior Courtney Bills, 17, returning for her fourth year with the choir, said she remembers "my friends and I holding each other and bawling" when they heard there was no director.
"Premiere is high school for me," she said. "It's my family and my friends. It's my thing. It really is my non-biological family."
Senior member Dezere Harper, 17, who joined as a sophomore, said Premiere has had a major impact on her teen years.
"I don't play sports; I've never been that kind of girl," she said. "Premiere lets me do what I love."
The show choir did lose a few members during its time without a director, but 19 students remain and there will be auditions next week for more. Sour said he hopes to bring the total to 25 to 27 students.
Despite starting late in the school year, the Premiere students will still get course credit for their participation, said Marietta High School Principal Bill Lee.
"The time they're putting in with their practice schedule is more than enough," he said. "It's worked out really well. We're just tickled to death to have Peter Sour."
Premiere did miss a few annual performances, but Sour said they'll still be able to prepare a Christmas show, a musical in the spring and a competition show, although he said participating in competitions is not a guarantee.
"We're going to see how that goes since we are starting late," he said. "We're trying to make up for lost time, but we are diving in."
Sour said he's happy to be able to bring back a program he feels is very valuable for the students who take part.
"One of the biggest fears people tend to have is speaking in front of crowds, and we teach them how to perform," he said. "Music and theater is really a form of communication, and they're learning vocal technique, how to read music ... and performance and choreography."
The Premiere students have jumped right back into practice, said Harper.
"We're all just so happy and relieved, and we're proud to be part of this Marietta High School tradition," she said. "My mom has even said how huge Premiere was when she want to school here. It's really scary to think that it could have been gone from the Marietta tradition."