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Students polish a capella skills at festival featuring Ringmasters

BLOOMINGTON (IL) — For Bloomington High School senior Brendan Donnelly, Thursday was a revelation."Everybody here has the same goal, and that's for everybody to succeed," he said. "It's amazing."Donnelly was one of more than 500 students from 16 high schools to attend the 16th Annual Youth in Harmony Festival, an event co-sponsored by the Bloomington-based Sound of Illinois barbershop group that each year passes on the tools of the trade.“The whole goal is to bring the style to the attention of a younger audience,” said Jim Waldorf, program vice president for Sound of Illinois. "With the advent of 'Jersey Boys' and 'Glee,' it has taken on a new luster.”

Between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., students took only a 30-minute lunch away from a capella workshops with professionals including Ringmasters — a Stockholm, Sweden-based group named the world's best a capella quartet in 2012 — in preparation for a performance Thursday night.Both took place at Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, where boys rehearsed downstairs and girls upstairs around 11:30 a.m.. Each group took on a pair of songs: Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" and Anna Kendrick's "Cups" for the guys with the girls performing rock standard "Rock Around the Clock" and "I Will Follow Him" from "Nunsense."

Ringmasters Member Jakob Stenberg said he was thrilled to see so many boys at the festival — 175 boys versus 325 girls."When I was young, it wasn't 'cool' to sing in the choir, especially for the guys," he said. "That seems to have changed."

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