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Coogs in Tune: UH Students Participate in NBC's 'Clash of the Choirs'Seven UH students to perform with Houston choir during competition to be aired Dec. 17 - 20

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When seven University of Houston student vocalists perform on national television as part of NBC’s “Clash of the Choirs” television show starting Dec. 17, they’ll be wearing familiar colors.

“We were told our outfits were going to be red,” said UH senior Jody Williams. “It’s purely coincidental and kind of cool that we’ll be able to represent UH by wearing the school’s colors.”

Williams is among the UH students who are part of a 20-member Houston choir directed by pop star Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child. This ensemble will compete against choirs from other cities that are led by other musical celebrities including Michael Bolton, Patti Labelle, Nick Lachey and Blake Shelton. The winning choir will receive prize money for a designated charity or community project.

The ensembles will all make their debuts during the television premiere of “Clash of the Choirs” at 7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 17 in New York City. It will be broadcast live on NBC television. Joining Williams are students senior John Gallagher, senior Sean Arnold, sophomore Michael Kessler, junior Frankie Espinoza, sophomore Spencer Soward and junior Ake Jamal.

These students were among the many who recently auditioned in Houston and are now among the few who were recruited for the opportunity to perform on a national stage. Since November, the Houston choir has been rehearsing diligently with Rowland.

With the exception of Jamal, all of the participating UH students are members of the Moores School of Music’s Concert Chorale.

“I am excited that they will receive this kind of national exposure,” said Betsy Cook Weber, the chorale’s director and associate professor of music. “I know they’ll have a great time, and I’ll be rooting for them to win.”

Unlike other reality competition shows, NBC’s “Clash of the Choirs” places an emphasis on ensembles rather than individual performers. The participating students are hoping that it ultimately strengthens the public’s perspectives of choirs. “The show might offer audiences a broader view of choral music,” Williams said. “It helps that the selections performed will be pop-based, but I am hoping people walk away with a sense of what a good choir sounds like.”

Williams and her fellow students are adjusting to delivering pop standards as opposed to classical arrangements, but they also must contend with other new performance elements including choreography and singing in front of a live TV audience.

“As part of the Concert Chorale, we’re all used to performing, so we know what we have to do” Espinoza said. “This is just a different type of performance, so we are all very excited by both being on television, but also by expanding our capabilities. This is a rare opportunity that also provides valuable experience.”

Before the UH students join the other choirs on stage during the “Clash of the Choirs” broadcast, they will be among other show participants who will be featured on a segment of NBC’s “Today” show on the morning of Monday, Dec. 17.

“Clash of the Choirs” will run Dec. 17 – 20. Audiences will decide the winning choir by voting for their favorite. Choirs with the lowest votes will be eliminated at the conclusion of various episodes.

Other choirs competing in the “Clash” hail from New Haven, Conn. (led by Bolton), Philadelphia (led by LaBelle), Cincinnati (led by Lachey) and Oklahoma City (led by Shelton).

“It’s great when our students are recognized for their exceptional talent," said David Ashley White, director of MSM.  “Having the chance to travel to New York City, appear on national television and spread some good Cougar spirit at the holiday season is great for them, the Moores School and the university.”

For additional information on “Clash of the Choirs,” visit

To learn more about the UH Moores School of Music, visit and for details on the MSM Concert Chorale, visit