Gleeks on campus

At UNT, students unite for a diverse, inclusive show choir. And there’s no Sue Sylvester

TEENAGED DREAMS | UNT Glee Club’s 19-year-old members — RaShard Turley, Raena McEuin, Emmanuel Rodriguez, Gianna Millares (she’s 20), Lindsay Harris and Marissa Davis — were inspired by the hit Fox series to pursue their love of performing. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer
stevencraiglindsey@me.com

Thankfully, there are no slushies in the face for members of UNT Glee Club, an organization inspired by the smash-hit Fox TV show, Glee. There’s no Sue Sylvester, either. But there are plenty of similarities between the college club and their TV counterparts.

Founded in 2010 by Jose Coira, who recently graduated, the club arose as a direct result of the TV show.

“He was inspired to give students on campus an opportunity to shine like the stars they are,” says Kendall Butler, a 23-year-old dancer and current president of the club. “UNT Glee Club is compiled of talented performers who sing and dance.”

Unlike traditional collegiate glee clubs that focus on classical music, Butler says his group is inspired by and performs all types of music. Auditions for the 24-member show choir and 20-person dance team that comprise the club were so popular they had to turn away plenty of good talent.

“It’s very competitive and nerve-racking because you want them all to be in Glee, but it just doesn’t work out that way,” he says.
Comparisons to the show are easy because of the group’s diversity, according to Butler.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think they follow us around and steal ideas for the actual show,” he says. “We get anything from the sweet Southern belle to the hard rocker, with only one thing in common: Music.”

And music is definitely one thing that the University of North Texas is known for. Having a talented glee club blossom on its campus is not a stretch of the imagination at all.

“We get all sorts of talented students that audition. From music majors to bio-chemistry majors, students come from all over campus and impress us with their voices and technical dancing skills,” Butler says. “Everyone we pick must be able to sing and dance. Most students can sing or dance, but we need our Gleeks to be well-rounded. Personality is also key — we want people who represent who we are.”

When asked if they were interested in commercial success similar to what the stars of the television series have enjoyed with their No. 1 CDs and iTunes downloads, the reactions of its members are somewhat surprising.

“Personally, I don’t feel like being world-famous or having record albums is what Glee is about,” says 19-year-old soprano Lindsay Harris, a psychology major. “Glee is about making friends, having fun and the enjoyment of being on stage and performing. Don’t get me wrong, I think seeing our glee club on a CD cover would be awesome, but our club is so much more than being famous.”

Alto and fellow psych major Jessica Ailene Rogers, 21, agrees.

“We have had our fair share of news coverage, as well as different people hire us to perform, but when it comes to ‘making it big,’ we just prefer to have fun and put on a great show for our friends, families and local fans.”

Butler believes a recording is definitely the direction the club would like to take eventually, but for now, everyone involved seems content to just explore their talents and have a good time. Most of all, UNT Glee is a place where students can be themselves, gay or straight, outgoing or reserved.

“It’s the club where friendships are born,” Butler says.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens