From the moment that Limited Edition starts its vocal warm-up routines, it is clear to anyone listening that this is not your standard high school chorus.
The harmonies blend in a way that instantly fills the auditorium of Port Washington High School and make the space feel like Carnegie Hall.
However, at a recent practice, Limited Edition was certainly not going to rest on its merits. They were a little more than a week from competing in the first round of the International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA), and director Dennis Gephart was making sure that every voice in the group is blended perfectly into the overall arrangement. They have been practicing four days a week during their scheduled class periods, as well as extra practices before and after school.
On Saturday, Feb. 11, the school's premier co-ed a cappella group will be competing in the first round of ICHSA in its home auditorium. The focus and commitment to practice is all worth getting back to the national finals in New York, a stage all too familiar to the group. Limited Edition finished second in the country last year and has made appearances in the finals since 2010, the last year that it finished first. Limited Edition has also appeared on several "Best Of" a cappella groups annually, making it one of the top high school a cappella groups in the country.
Gephart is extremely proud of the accomplishments of the group, but he never loses sight of the fact that he is a teacher first.
"As a teacher, you have to know that they will grow only as much as you allow them to grow," said Gephart. "When I teach this group, I teach them in a way to be the best like any professional group. There's also a give and take where I recognize the strengths of the group and allow my students to creatively flex."
A native of Plymouth with a background in vocal jazz, in 2001, Gephart came to Port Washington, where he is the Director of Choral Activities and department head. Since founding Limited Edition 14 years ago, Gephart has used the group as an outlet for his students to create their own music and arrangements that are performed by the group.
It is this level of creativity and passion for music that keeps the members of Limited Edition so tightly wound together. Senior Elliot DeMerit has been in the group since his sophomore year and plans to continue with music in college.
"Singing and performing was something I was liked doing, and Limited Edition made me love it," said DeMerit. "What I love about performing with Limited Edition is being in the moment of the performance and selling the emotion of that performance to the audience."
Sophomore Madelyn Stuckey first saw the group perform while she was still in middle school and knew back then that she wanted to be a part of it.
"Performing with Limited Edition is great because they are like my second family. There's such a positive energy in the group," said Stuckey.