Newton Choir led by Hillsboro Elementary teacher

There are several students in the Newton Community Children's Choir who live in Marion County. Pictured here are Ruth Paulus (Hillsboro), Mia (Peabody), Analiesa Jorgenson (Hillsboro) and Chloe (Peabody). Laura Fowler Paulus / Free Press
There are several students in the Newton Community Children's Choir who live in Marion County. Pictured here are Ruth Paulus (Hillsboro), Mia (Peabody), Analiesa Jorgenson (Hillsboro) and Chloe (Peabody). Laura Fowler Paulus / Free Press
Newton Community Children’s Choir has been a tradition in both the communities of Harvey County and Marion County as well as the family who originally started it.

Norma Preheim, a longtime Newton resident, became the first director of the choir for kids from fourth to eighth grades. And now, 28 years after Preheim started it, her granddaughter Jill Siebert is directing it.

“This is my first year. My sister did it before me. She did it for three years and she loved it and would have continued, but her husband got accepted into grad school in Wisconsin. So now I get to do it,” said Siebert. “I grew up in Topeka and not in the Newton area, so I heard the choir sing a number of times, but I never got to be in it.”

Siebert and her husband Braden live in Newton. They both attended Bethel College there. Siebert now works as the music and art teacher for Hillsboro Elementary School. She started directing for NCCC at the beginning of the school year.

“It’s been really fun. It’s been a big challenge and has really taken me out of my comfort zone. At school you just want everyone to like music and do well. But with the choir, I feel like the pressure is on to make it sound good and to have the kids know what they are doing. It’s been definitely a growing experience for me and also really fun and rewarding,” said Siebert.

While the choir is based out of Newton and practices and concerts are held there, the members come from both Harvey County and Marion County.

Siebert said, “A majority are from the Newton school district, but we have a couple from Peabody and one from Moundridge. There are some kids not in the public school system but from the Catholic school in Newton or homeschool, and we have three from Hillsboro. I hope we can continue to get kids from outside the Newton area, who maybe don’t have their own choirs in their own town. That’s pretty important.”

The auditioned choir seeks to inspire student’s passion for singing and provides the opportunity for kids of all levels to sing with other kids who love music. The members learn proper techniques and sing all different types and styles of music. In addition to weekly practices, a fall retreat and several concerts and performances, the choir travels soon to participate in the Children’s Choir Festival. The Festival was started a few years ago, and it’s made up of Kansas children’s choirs. Different choirs take turns hosting it, and this year it will be held in Lawrence.

“It’s amazing. There are hundreds of kids up there who sing songs on their own and they sing one giant piece together. It’s always a really cool experience for the kids to sing in such an enormous choir. It never really happens so it is cool that we get to have that experience for them. It’s good to see different choirs perform different songs,” said Siebert.

There is yearly tuition for the members of the choir, but other than that, everything is funded through donations and a few fundraisers the choir does throughout the year.

“Our board of directors that make everything run are fully volunteer. We rely heavily on donations,” said Siebert.

There is one person who has been a consistent part of the choir for all these years.

“Our accompanist is Melody Bontrager. She has been with the choir since some of my Grandma’s years at least. She’s played for every director that the choir has had. She is awesome to have around and is very talented,” said Siebert.

If you have a child who would be interested in participating in the choir, the next tryouts for the choir will be May 6 and May 13. They will be small group auditions so children do not have to sing solo. More information can be found on their website which is