ICON of the Month: Jennifer Dice

Center Grove choir director celebrates 16 years of teaching at Center Grove and first national title for the choir program

Compiled by Nicole Davis

For the first time in the 16 years since Jennifer Dice has directed the Center Grove Choir program, one of its choirs has won a national title. Center Grove choirs have celebrated an award-winning season this school year, climaxing as Sound System was awarded the National Grand Championship in Large Mixed Division at the Heart of America National Competition on March 19.

Center Grove choirs are directed by Dice, Jared Norman, Greg Sanders and Wendy Webb and choreographed by Andy Haines and April James.

“We have a phenomenal team,” Dice said. “It’s fun to come to work because I like the people I work with. We collaborate and have a shared vision, which is a huge part of what makes us successful.”

Dice is a recognizable face of the choir program, said parent and volunteer, Kristen St. Pierre.

“She impacts so many lives,” St. Pierre said. “She really has transformed this to be one of the top competitive choirs in the country. After the grand championship win a few weeks ago, they have had calls from all over the country. She’s definitely a hot commodity in the industry currently. … Even with all of this, she’s a genuinely nice person. When we put on Best in the Midwest, our competition for other high schools to participate, I run the directors room. One of the things I consistently hear is they’re amazed that she is such a big player in this but yet if they have a question, she always answers their call and tries to help them.”

Dice taught at Franklin Community and Franklin Central high schools for two years each prior to coming to Center Grove in the 2006-07 school year.

While the choirs continuously win awards and recognition, they also continue to sell out its local performances, such as the Christmas production and Spring Spectacular coming up May 5 and 6.

“The kids would tell you I have very high expectations,” Dice said. “I expect the kids to be working at 100 percent all of the time and they do their very best to meet those expectations or goals. There is a quote by Nick Saban, which we have in the choir room, and that is: ‘Passion always looks like aggression to the unmotivated.’ I think they would tell you I’m very driven, and I want us to be our best.”

What do you like most about living in Johnson County?

I love living in Johnson County and specifically White River Township. I love that our community is entrenched in its schools and churches. The parents of this community allow me to focus on my job as a teacher by supporting the vision of the choral music program at Center Grove High School. I get to concentrate on helping our students find success and the community/parents support our needs. I don’t think there are too many places in which you can find a school music program more supported by its parents than Center Grove.

If you had to live elsewhere than in Johnson County, where would it be?

I love warm weather, and so I would likely find myself someplace south or more temperate. I love Hilton Head Island, S.C. and Naples, Fla.

If you could begin life over, what would you change?

I believe that God has a specific plan for each of us, and so I wouldn’t change anything in his plan … it certainly is better than mine!

If money were no issue, how would you spend it?

Traveling … world traveling … with my family … and a nanny … and a tutor. We definitely learned that home-schooling is not an option for our family during the COVID-19 shut down.

What makes you happiest?

My family. My husband, Troy, is a math teacher and football coach at CGHS. I also have two daughters, Tessa and Maddox. I love watching my girls perform in dance and cheer, but honestly, I just love the time that we get to hang out and be together.

What is your favorite vacation spot?

I have traveled to Europe several times and I definitely have loved those trips. As a college student, I was able to perform a mass in the Notre Dame Cathedral, and that was a really cool experience. I love that not only do you get to explore new places when traveling abroad, but also other cultures.

What do you do with idle time?

I am a runner and would call that my hobby. I have run the Boston Marathon twice and many other local races as well. There are a group of us who meet at the courthouse in Franklin on Saturday mornings who have been running together for nearly 20 years. Although we don’t race much anymore, I love the camaraderie and reliving our glory days when a new person joins our group.

Which living person in Johnson County do you most admire?

I really admire our pastor, Chris Philbeck. I appreciate his stand for the truth and his incredible teaching abilities.

What is the quality you most like in a person?

I like a person to be honest but demonstrate humility.

What has been the happiest time of your life?

I am not sure that any mother could possibly answer this question without including the birth of her children … so aside from the obvious, I will hit on a recent work-related celebration. This spring break the CGHS Choirs traveled to Disney Springs to compete in the Heart of America Nationals Competition. Both CG Sound System and The Debtones were named Grand Champions at that competition. This is our first national title since I have been the director of Sound System (10 years). We have won several national championships when I was the director of The Debtones, and Sound System has been named first runner-up many times under my direction, but we have not won the Grand Champion title until this year. This was an extremely exciting time for us, and I am happy that the kids were able to meet that ultimate goal of winning a national level competition.

What do you most value in your friends?

My friends are my family. All of our biological family is from northern Indiana, and so our friends are everything to us. We appreciate that we can share our lives, our trials, our successes, our fears, with a group of people who will support us with honesty, sincerity and love. We all love the Lord and are drawn together with our common desire to raise our families to live a humble servant life.