It’s an unlikely pairing — a group of high school choir singers that have become sweethearts of the region’s war veterans. While the elite singing group that calls themselves Wolffgang does sing a variety of timeless classics that appeal to a mass audience, they’re best known for their renditions of 1940s era tunes that were made popular by the Andrews Sisters during the war years.
The Hobart High School group performs often for senior and veteran groups that enjoy reminiscing to the tune of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” and other nostalgic melodies. Such performances often include a medley of songs of the military’s branches where veterans are asked to stand when their branch’s service song is played, ending the set on a touching note.
The select female vocal group performs between 60 and 70 times per year throughout Chicagoland and Indiana at various community, business, charity and athletic events as well as school concerts. The group typically covers popular music from the 1930’s through 60’s. Wolffgang has appeared on ABC 7’s Morning News and was an opening act for Tom Dreesen at the Laugh Factory in Chicago.
The group is led by Dean Wolff, choir director for Hobart’s middle school and high school. The Wolffgang name was suggested by students when the group originated back in 1988. “I told the kids we needed a name, and they came up with it and it stuck,” said Wolff, who teaches five class choirs of about 250 students in addition to directing Wolffgang and a larger choir called Mystique.
Becoming part of the 9-member Wolffgang involves beating out some tough competition in a rigorous audition process. “The one part of my job that I hate is auditions,” said Wolff. “I know how bad some kids would like to do it, but we can only fit so many kids on the bus. Kids love to be part of something.” He said that last year there were 25 students auditioning for just five spots.
Sophomore Haley Rivera said the best part of Wolffgang is the strong friendships that are formed. “Since we’re all involved in music, we can all relate to each other and there’s never a serious moment with us. And you meet a lot of cool people.”
Andrea Ward is the group’s sole freshman and also has enjoyed meeting new friends through the group. “It’s hard work, but it pays off, “ she said.
You might expect that teenage girls would rather be singing Katy Perry than 1930s standards, but Kaylee Rodriquez, a junior who is in the group for the second year doesn’t mind. “I love it. I appreciate this music,” she said. “We don’t hear enough of this, and it’s just wonderful.”
Emily Pazik, a junior who is new to Wolffgang agrees. “I like seeing the variety of songs,” she said. She also enjoys the variety of audiences. “We did a high school reunion not too long ago and that was a lot of fun. They were all singing along with us.”
It’s that Andrews Sisters classic “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” that senior Abby Purcell said is her favorite to perform. “It always pleases the crowd and gets me really energized.”
Wolffgang hasn’t always been exclusively a girl’s club. “In the 90’s we had a male quartet for two years that were every bit as good, but they graduated, and we couldn’t sustain that.” Even in the larger choir, Wolff said there are very few males.
Rodriguez said the group has taught her about commitment, as the schedule of rehearsing and performing is quite intense. It’s not unusual for the singers to put on a morning or afternoon performance for a community group and then head out after school for an evening event. This time of year is especially busy as the girls are in big demand for holiday performances around the region where they combine festive holiday medleys with some of their usual material. This year the schedule also includes some in studio recording for 89.1 Merrillville LakeShore Radio.
Many of the upcoming shows are scheduled for private meetings or events, but Wolffgang will be performing a free show for seniors for the Legacy Concert at Hobart High School on Dec. 17 at 6 p.m., which is open to the public. Wolffgang can also be seen as part of the Hobart High School Holiday Concert on Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. The concert is open to the public and there is an entrance fee.