Dr. Jennifer Barnickle-Fitch - Solo Competition

Dr. Jennifer Barnickel-Fitch, Soprano, received her Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Michigan under the guidance of Lorna Haywood. She has won awards from the Metropolitan Opera National Counsel as well as Milwaukee Bel Canto Chorus and the Ann Arbor Musical Society. She is a frequent recitalist and her oratorio works include Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem and Mass in C, Schubert’s Mass in G, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Mass in C, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Rutter’s Magnificat, Brahms’s Requiem, and Verdi’s Requiem, to name a few.

She has been a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus and the Lyric Opera Chorus and has covered the title role of Verdi’s Aida and Leonora in Il trovatore for da Corneto Opera, as well as being broadcast on WFMT in Chicago. She began her history and love of show choir in high school. Then she became a vocal instructor for the Award winning and National Champion group, the Pointe Singers, and has been working with young singers and show choirs ever since. She currently is a vocal instructor at the College of DuPage, in District 204, and at the School of Performing Arts in Naperville.Ines Kurtovic Cring - Preliminary & Finals

Ines Kurtovic Cring - Preliminary & Finals

Ines Kurtovic Cring graduated with honors with a degree in 0Choral Music Education from the University of Illinois is 2005. She was the music director of her college a capella group, The Rip Chords, and, in 2004, one of her arrangements was selected for the BOCA (Best of College A Cappella) 2008 compilation CD. From 2005 until 2009 she worked as a choral director at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, Illinois where she taught four intermediate and advanced curricular choirs, a music theory course, and two co-curricular choirs including a prep show choir and a madrigal/vocal jazz ensemble.

From 2010 to 2013, she worked as a musical director for theater productions at the University of Virgin Islands and at Pistarckle Theater in St Thomas, USVI. At that time she also managed and performed as a pianist and vocalist in the St. Thomas band, Slick Fiction. In 2014 she worked as the music department accompanist for Addison Trail High School. In 2015 she was an assistant choral director at Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids during where she directed two show choirs and accompanied three. For the past eleven years, she has also worked as an accompanist at Show Choir Camps of America. She currently works as a studio musician at BMK Arrangements, a freelance accompanist and vocal clinician, and a private voice and piano instructor at Music4life in North Liberty, Iowa.

Ann Cvitkovic - Preliminary Most Outstanding Soloists, Performer & Costuming

Ann Cvitkovic holds a Master of Arts in music and is currently the Director of Choral Activities at Lake Bluff Middle School. Ms. Cvitkovic has also held elementary and high school teaching positions. Throughout Ms. Cvitkovic’s 26-year teaching career, she has cast, costumed, and directed over 80 musicals, madrigal dinners, and show choir shows. Many honors have been bestowed on her choirs and performing ensembles, including being selected for the Dreamchoir in the National Tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Grand Champion, Best Vocals and Best Choreography, Sullivan Show Choir Invitational; State of Illinois Governor’s Special Invitation to sing for the unveiling of the Illinois State Quarter; Mayor Richard Daley’s special invitation to sing for the official opening of Skate on State; and Joffrey Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker.

Ms. Cvitkovic is a consistently sought after clinician and leader in best practice in choral education and musical theatre, costuming, and show design. Most recently, she was named a finalist for the 2017 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. Ms. Cvitkovic has previously served as an adjudicator for other midwest show choir invitationals and is honored to be adjudicating at the NNHS Clash of the Sequins.

Ben Eklund - Preliminary Critique & Finals

Ben Eklund is a freelance choreographer residing in Lincoln, Nebraska. Growing up in nationally recognized choral environments sparked his passion for working in the show choir industry. After graduating from Lincoln Southwest High School, he went on to study Music Education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Currently, Ben designs shows, choreographs, and presents clinics for a number of schools in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. These schools have earned Finals appearances, Best Vocals, Best Choreography, and Grand Champion honors.

In the summer of 2015, Ben was given the privilege to choreographing a group at the Nebraska Show Choir Camp. Ben also is looking forward to choreographing for the Missouri All-State Show Choir this upcoming summer. When choreography season slows down, Ben often spends his weekends traveling around the Midwest judging competitions. Previously, he has judged for FAME, Heart of America, and many other prestigious competitions. He feels truly blessed to work with such talented directors and fine young performers. Ben would like to thank all, especially his wife Melissa, who has supported and aided his growth as a choreographer and educator.

Melissa Eklund - Preliminary Critique & Finals

Melissa Eklund is a freelance choreographer currently residing in Lincoln, Nebraska but originally from Keller, Texas. A trained singer and dancer, she fell in love with show choir the moment she was introduced. She attended Central High School and was a part of the first ever nationally competitive show choir (Voices of Central) in the state. After high school, she attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she studied music education. At UNL, she was a dedicated member and section leader of the Women’s Chorale and the college’s top concert choir, University Singers. In addition to singing in choirs, she spent several years taking private voice lessons from some of the best instructors in the state. Melissa was also a section leader, dance captain, and featured soloist for the university’s nationally known show choir, Big Red Singers.

She has spent over a decade working at the Nebraska Show Choir Camp as a counselor, dance captain, choreographer-intern, and, most recently, assistant choreographer. Melissa has now returned to UNL to complete a degree in elementary education and continue her passion for teaching. When she is not teaching first grade or taking classes, Melissa choreographs over 25 show choirs in the South and Midwest. Several of the schools she works for have hired her to design their costumes and create custom hair and makeup looks for their show. Additionally, Melissa choreographs musicals, assists other award-winning and successful choreographers, clinics, and numerous show choirs and judges various competitions. Melissa is honored and excited to be judging the Naperville North Clash of the Sequins today!

Connie Mulligan - Preliminary & Finals

Connie is the Junior High/High School vocal music director at Mt. Zion Community School District. She has been a music educator for over 25 years and has enjoyed returning to the Mt. Zion Show Choir family. Connie first came to Mt. Zion as the director of the Swingsations in 1991. During her time at Mt. Zion, she also teamed up with Roberta Vest to start the unisex group, Les Femmes. Connie has had the opportunity to direct the Sullivan Singers, Pekin Noteables, Eisenhower Elite Energy and she was proud to start the Glenwood-Chatham show choir program.

Being from Central Illinois and graduating from Eastern Illinois University, Connie was on staff at the Eastern Illinois Summer Music Camps. Directing the Decatur Park Singers, Performing on stage at the Little Theatre on the Square, Serving as LTOTS Company Manager, Owning a formal wear retail shop, Co-Directing the Recreation Dept. Show Choir Camps, working as an adjudicator and clinician as well as teaching private voice/piano in the summers are a few of the hats that Connie has worn. Her favorite part of life is being a mom to Sydni (13) and Sam (19). Sharing musical moments together has been the highlight of her teaching career.

Linda McEachran Southard - Preliminary & Finals

Linda McEachran Southard is an in-demand show choir arranger, consultant, and choreographer. Her arrangements are currently being performed by some of the best show choirs in the country. In addition to writing show choir arrangments, Linda is a sought after show choir consultant, conducting workshops as well as private clinics for competitive show choirs. For 33 years, Linda McEachran Southard was the director, arranger, and choreographer for the award-winning Expressions from Buffalo Grove High School. While at Buffalo Grove, Linda earned numerous caption awards, both vocal and choreographic, as well as several national level titles.

Still judging show choirs at the regional and national levels and this year at the Canadian Show Choir National Competition, Linda also continues to choreograph musicals in the Chicago Suburbs. Linda Southard was the 2012 recipient of the Fame Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mike Weaver - Preliminary & Finals

Mike Weaver is an author and award-winning director/choreographer based in Chicago. He works widely in both conceptual and technical development with a variety of projects ranging from show choir competition programs to concerts and theatrical events. Credits include: Carnival Cruise Lines, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom: Marine World Africa USA; Warner Bros Publishing; Hal Leonard Publishing; and Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

As a clinician, Mike has served as adjunct faculty with several U. S. colleges and he gas headed workshops at numerous performing arts camps, including The Master Class Series in Ontario, Canada; Show Choir Camps of America; and North Carolina Summer Institute for Choral Arts. Mike has adjudicated for dozens of local, state, regional and national competition venues, including Fame Show Choir National Championship Series and Show Choir Canada. In 2014, Mike was honored with an industry-awarded Aspire Lifetime Achievement presentation for his past and ongoing contributions to the field of show choir.

He is co-author of the definitive and internationally acclaimed book, Sweat, Tears and Jazz Hands: The Official History of Show Choir from Vaudeville to ‘Glee’. ( As a member of the American Choral Directors Association, Mike has presented workshops and joined expert panels at several national conferences. In 2016, Mike accepted a service role as National Repertoire and Resource Chair for Commercial and Contemporary choral music. There’s an app for that! Mike is creator of Show Choir Dance Moves, a video reference app for directors, choreographers, and dance educators needing style-specific dance ideas for their projects, available for iPhone and iPad. (iTunes Store). Mike is an alumni of Millikin University School of Music (Piano Jazz performance, BM) and Columbia College Chicago (Film Directing, MFA).