Influencers | Nicholas Janssen

February 2018 View more

Singing and dancing have always come easy for Nicholas Janssen. He developed a love for performing at an early age that flourished during his high school show choir years. Now, as the instructional coordinator of fine arts and director of vocal music at Naperville North High School, he brings that experience to area students. On February 17 the school will host its third annual Clash of the Sequins national show choir competition.

People have been introduced to show choir competitions thanks to shows and movies like “Glee” and “Pitch Perfect.” Tell us a little bit about this world.
If you haven’t been involved in competitive high school show choir, you don’t realize how huge this world is. Choirs travel around the country competing in regional, national and international contests. Each group puts on a 20-minute performance, complete with costume changes, concert lighting and even special effects. It’s like Beyoncé meets a giant Vegas production.

How did Clash of the Sequins come to fruition?
When North’s show choir started competing five years ago, a group of parents suggested we host [a competition.] I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just another competition, but something that would be an amazing experience for our students and would set us apart. Knowing it would be a huge undertaking, I made a list of seemingly impossible demands. When the parents came back with solutions to every single thing I had come up with, I agreed to do it. I couldn’t ask for a better community to make something like this happen.

What makes the event more than just a competition?
Clash of the Sequins is a huge experience where the kids feel like rock stars in their own school. Students not only put on pro-quality performances, but they also receive professional feedback from expert judges in the industry. One unique thing we do is provide a 25-minute clinic session immediately after a group performs. Students work directly with one of our professionals and receive valuable feedback on their performance.

We put a lot of effort into the audience experience as well. The fieldhouse literally feels like you’re at a Britney Spears concert. Because February weather can be very unpredictable, we also partner with local food vendors and merchants to make sure people have everything they need for the day.

How has the competition evolved over the past three years?
In the beginning there were a lot of upfront costs and we fundraised for several years. We were very strategic about the size and scale. The first year we hosted it in our auditorium and had five schools participate. Instead of making it a full-fledged national contest, we made it a contest with a workshop. Last year we increased it to 16 groups and moved it into our fieldhouse. This year we have 20 competing ensembles from all over the country. We expect anywhere from 3,000 to 7,000 people here throughout the day.

What inspires you to take on such a big undertaking?
When I was in high school, I learned that competitive show choir is so much more than singing, dancing and music. It builds confidence and teaches students how to present themselves and work as a team. I’m passionate about creating great experiences and helping people find confidence in themselves. It’s a lot of work, but I love seeing students and their families having an amazing time doing what they love to do. I’m also proud that we’re able to give back and help sponsor some schools that normally wouldn’t be able to afford to come. That’s what inspires me to keep doing this.

Show Business
The Clash of the Sequins competition begins at 7:00 a.m. February 17 at Naperville North High School (899 North Mill Street) and performances will run until 11:30 p.m. $15 tickets are available at the door. For more information visit