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Dad the director: Chris Fettig leads his sons on Bemidji High School choirs

The Bemidji High School A Cappella Choir, shown performing at the Bemidji Rotary Club meeting, will be part of the school's winter concert on Monday, Dec. 11 at the BHS Auditorium. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 4
Noah Paulson, left, Heather Werlein and Chris Afram perform a song with the BHS Madrigals ensemble. The 17-member group will perform four songs at Monday's winter concert. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 4
Bemidji High School choir director Chris Fettig is pictured with sons Christian (left) and Conner (right). Submitted Photo3 / 4
Chris Fettig conducts Bemidji High School's A Cappella Choir during a performance at the Bemidji Rotary Club meeting. The choir will be one of five groups to perform at the school's winter concert on Monday, Dec. 17. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)4 / 4

BEMIDJI—It's not uncommon for sports coaches to have their own children on the team. The kids grow up watching their mom or dad coach the game.

So it's no surprise that two of the members of the Bemidji High School a cappella and Chamber choirs are Christian and Conner Fettig. Their dad, Chris, has built the school's choral program into a powerhouse over the past 32 years.

All three Fettigs will be on stage Monday night, Dec. 17, for the school's annual winter concert at the BHS Auditorium. Christian, 17, is a senior in the bass section. Conner, 15, is a sophomore who sings baritone. Chris will direct five different vocal groups in the concert.

"One of the highlights is to share this with family," Chris said. "I'm really proud of them, and it's neat that a lot of their friends are also involved in choir. After doing this 32 years it adds a new dynamic to it. I've worked with my kids a long time, though, because I started the Bemidji Boy Choir when they were really young. So they had a little taste of having their dad as a teacher before they got here, but I think it's a little more intense now that they're at the high school. They see that I'm pretty serious about it."

Christian and Conner have been welcomed into BHS choral music activities from the time they were born. When they were very young, they got to wear outfits that matched the Vocalmotive high school show choir costumes. They even remember going up on stage when show choir members accepted their winning trophies. Both will be part of Vocalmotive again this year when the season ramps up after the first of the year.

"They always felt a part of it," their mother, Tiffany, said. "They would be right there dancing alongside the kids learning the choreography from the time they could walk." She recalled one time during intermission at a show choir competition when they lost track of Christian for a moment. "It was like we lost our child, but he was up on stage in his costume," Tiffany said. "They've always felt very comfortable around the show choir world. It's fun to finally see them out there doing it on their own."

Christian said he feels like any other singer in the choir, except for how he addresses the director.

"I still call him Dad," Christian said with a smile. "I don't call him Mr. Fettig. I don't want to be treated different. It's kind of like a regular class, just that I call the teacher Dad. I've had a lot of people tell me that (the choral program) wasn't as much of a thing before he started at the high school. People will come up and tell me what he has meant. I usually don't try to make it a big deal, but I do understand that he's been a pretty big influence on music in Bemidji."

It's not all singing, all the time in the Fettig household. Well, maybe with the exception of 13-year-old Abbie, an eighth grader who enjoys choir and dance. "She's our non-stop singer," Tiffany said.

Around the house, Christian enjoys listening to rap music, and Conner is into soundtrack music from movies like Star Wars. But on occasion they'll work on choral music with their dad.

"Every once in a while since we're in the madrigals together my dad would bring us upstairs to the piano and we'd sing through the songs," Christian said, "if he didn't think we were ready."

The boys don't interact much in the choir room at school, partly because they're in different sections, and partly because of rules.

"We don't really converse that much," Christian said. "Well, there's no talking in choir, so..."

Christian plans to enroll at the University of Minnesota next year to study apparel design. He plans to get acclimated to college life for at least a semester before deciding whether to audition for choir.

Although he has more time to decide on post-high school plans, Conner said he intends to stick with music no matter what his field of study. He plays piano and he's in the trombone section with the BHS band. "I probably won't go into music," he said, "but I'll continue playing the piano and singing."

Singing is what both Fettig brothers will be doing on Monday night, with their dad leading the way.