Raise The Roof: A Beloved Kennedy Event, Canceled.


Kiera Zwack

Happiness Inc. singers having fun during rehearsal while preparing for their competition season.

Raise The Roof is an annual show choir competition hosted by Kennedy. Held at the Alliant Energy Powerhouse in late February, it’s become one of the most known events at Kennedy and in the show choir world.

In 2021, the event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and once again, the 2023 Raise The Roof competition will not take place.

“I mean our kids are certainly disappointed because they love to host the event,” Happiness Inc. director Storm Ziegler said. “But also groups that love to come. Ankeny High School, they were going to bring four groups again and they love[d] coming and they were disappointed in not coming. The families love the event. I mean no one’s happy about it.”

Ziegler also sympathizes with the Kennedy show choir tech crews.

“I think particularly our technical kids, that’s kind of their super bowl. I’m probably most sad for them because they’re not gonna have that day this year,” said Ziegler.

While the singers host the groups, the tech runs backstage. Show choir tech normally spends the week leading up to Raise The Roof setting up the Powerhouse for the event. The day of the event is spent making sure everything is organized and the choirs have good performances.

Matt Powers, who’s in charge of the tech, agreed with Ziegler’s statement.

“It’s a whole lot of work,” Powers said. “It’s an extremely long day, but it is a lot of fun and you do learn a lot and it’s a great experience.” 

A lack of funding played a main role in the cancellation. 

“The problem is that it’s expensive,” Ziegler said. “We have to have a certain number of groups come in order to make sure that we have enough money to cover the expenses and this year, as of the time I had to sign contracts with the facility, we did not have enough groups commit to coming.”

Ziegler thinks part of the reason there were fewer choirs signed up is because of the high stakes of Raise The Roof. Big schools like Ankeny and Linn-Mar may have made smaller schools feel like it wasn’t worth going to the competition.

“The event has a reputation of attracting really really really strong groups,” said Ziegler. “There are groups that felt like they didn’t have an opportunity to make finals in the lineup of groups we had, so they didn’t want to come because they didn’t think they had a chance to make finals.”

Another issue Raise The Roof faces is competing for attendance with other competitions. 

Ziegler explained that there are too many competitions for a small number of choirs. This makes finding enough groups to compete difficult. On top of that, the Iowa High School Music Association (IHSMA) has a rule that prevents choirs with adults in their bands from competing, turning away many out-of-state choirs.

“Basically 90% of the groups outside of the state of Iowa can’t compete in Iowa because they all have adults in their bands,” Ziegler said. “They want to compete and they can’t.”

Ziegler said he’s working on a few solutions for future Raise The Roof events.

“I’m currently working with the head of the IHSMA to try and get that remodified to allow out-of-state groups to come in and then there will be more groups to go around,” Ziegler said. “… we might discover that hosting this event down there every other year makes it something that more people want to attend because they can’t do it every year.”

A few changes to the event may lead Raise The Roof into becoming an even more popular event in Iowa and the Midwest. 

“Another idea that we had that we’re looking into is the potential of creating an Iowa show choir championship,” Ziegler said. “From a Kennedy event to an Iowa show choir event that we would host.”

Despite the news of the 2023 Raise The Roof cancellation, the event is not gone and will hopefully evolve from this change. 

Kennedy show choirs will continue to compete this year without Raise The Roof in their schedule. They kick off their season with the Premiere Concert on Nov. 10 in the Kennedy auditorium.