Xavier Magazine

Clash of the Choirs

Chuck Merk remembers reading his horoscope the morning of his final audition for NBC’s “Clash of the Choirs,” a reality show where amateur choirs competed for top honors. “You desire an intense, special and extraordinary experience,” read the fortune. “You might even decide to blow off work in favor of embracing what seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” 

It was right.

Merk was one of 400, one of 50, one of 30 and, finally, one of 20 chosen to sing with other Cincinnati locals on Team Cincinnati, led by Queen City native and former boy-band member Nick Lachey. And not only did Merk land a spot in the choir, but his team went on to win first place in the competition, which drew millions of prime time viewers. The choir donated its $250,000 prize money to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

As a math teacher at Lakota West High School and “one of the few math teachers out there who has perfect pitch,” Merk says he knew it was meant to be. For his first audition, the 2003 graduate performed a number from “Miss Saigon” and the theme song from “Cheers” before having to sight read music.

“When I announced to my students that I made the choir, most of them didn’t care, but a few students in each of my classes were genuinely happy for me and proud,” he says. “Since then, I’ve had almost every student congratulate me, as well as teachers. It’s good that my students think I’m less geeky now.”