ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
High school can be ripe with peer pressure-to behave according to unwritten rules for each generation.
At Peabody-Burns High School, senior Michael Unruh has elected to be in a variety of activities, including a small, select group of singers called Voices. And that’s a choice he easily defends-regardless of any peer pressure.
“It’s not really been big in our school,” Unruh said about Voices. “But this year, we finally got more interest.”
A few freshmen and a senior decided to join the show ensemble that grew to 14 members this year. Last year, the two Unruh brothers were the only boys in Voices singing the male parts. Now, six young men sing in the group.
“It’s been kind of fun knowing I’m one of a small group involved in music,” Unruh said. “Maybe guys don’t think it’s very fun or whatever, but I think it is.”
The addition of more males in Voices has helped the group in other ways, too.
“It’s a good number now because we also do choreography with some of our songs,” Unruh said. “Having more guys makes it easier to pair up guys and girls when we dance together. And with more guys, you get a better sound, and we don’t have to sing as loud.”
The Unruh family lives on a large farm in rural Peabody.
“We raise pigs, and we grow a lot of crops, like wheat, corn, soybeans, milo and cotton,” Unruh said.
He doesn’t have to rise early to do chores during the school year. “But in the summer, I work a lot,” Unruh said. “We have hay and alfalfa, and I work with that. But, I do other odd jobs, whenever they need help with stuff.”
Unruh now sings bass in Voices, but was a tenor for the first three years in high school.
“My first two years, my voice wasn’t really down there yet, so I sang tenor, and that was all right,” he said. “But my junior year, I had to sing tenor because my brother sang bass, and he can sing lower than I can.”
If the music calls for three bass voices, Unruh will usually sing the middle notes.
“I like the low notes,” Unruh said. “I can sing the lowest notes in our choir. So it’s fun doing that and knowing they can’t.”
In the past, Voices’ members have participated in the regional music festivals at Tabor College, and the select group made it to the state level Unruh’s freshman year.
As he practiced for regionals at the end of March, Unruh said, “We usually do pretty good. It has to all be there on that one time we sing.”
Director Steven Glover praised Unruh for participating in choir all four years in high school.
“Michael has done an excellent job in the group and does a great job helping other students learn choreography,” Glover said. “He is a good leader who will be greatly missed next year.”
Unruh said the two most difficult things about the choir program are memorizing the music and leaving the athletic practice field for music events while fellow athletes stay.
“No one else in sports is in choir,” Unruh said. “It’s a little hard, but I’ve learned to take it.”
A busy senior, Unruh is in band, football and track. He’s president of National Honor Society, and is a member of Scholars Bowl, Business Professionals of America, FFA, student council and forensics.
After he receives his high-school diploma, Unruh plans to major in biology and play football at Bethel College in North Newton in the fall.
His experience in the PBHS choir program has added culture to his life and made him a better person, he said.
“If you try different things, like music and forensics, it makes you more well rounded. And it’s really fun.”