‘Real Men Sing!’ with gutsy performance in Pillager

The Real Men Sing choral festival will be at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, at Pillager Middle School. This event provides a day of instruction for area high school and college-age young men, followed by

2019 Real Men Sing! festival chorus in a gymnasium with an audience
An audience listens to the music at the 2019 Real Men Sing! festival, an annual event hosted by the Staples Area Men's Chorus for area high school and college-age male singers.
Contributed / Ken Klose
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PILLAGER — “Real Men Sing!” gained notoriety throughout the state of Minnesota and across the nation and it’s back for another year.

Organized by the Staples Area Men's Chorus, the event featured over 4,000 participants since 2003. This year’s concert will be at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, in the Pillager Middle School gym. Rehearsals and student workshops are in the morning and afternoon, prior to the concert.

At no charge to participating schools or students, the Staples Area Men’s Chorus books the facility, hires the guest conductors and a voice teacher, buys the music, and provides the afternoon snack and an evening meal for all participants.

Staples Area Men’s Chorus members in tuxedoes sing together in a school gymnasium.
Staples Area Men’s Chorus members sing together in a school gymnasium.
Contributed / Ken Klose

“With the exception of the last two years due to COVID, the previous 17 festivals have been a resounding success with both participants and audience members,” according to Kevin Olsen of the Staples Area Men's Chorus.

In 2021, the chorus went to area high schools to bring them a unique experience where they could work with members of a professional men’s vocal ensemble and then joined the choirs of Brainerd high and middle schools choirs at their “Dads and Lads” concert.


“These kinds of events and traditions aren’t pulled off by organizations that aren’t highly organized with many dedicated and talented members,” Don Hoffmann, a singer in the chorus, stated in a news release.

This will be the 20th year for the festival, which provides young men in high school choirs throughout Minnesota the opportunity to work under some of the very best choral directors in the state.

“We are quite proud of our traditions,” said Ron Denning, a longtime chorus member.

Participating schools are not limited to bringing only their “best” students to the festival, like many festivals. Instead, they are encouraged to bring all of their male singers to the festival, according to the news release.

Area high school students and college-age young men sit together in a classroom to receive instruction prior to a Real Men Sing! concert.
Area high school students and college-age young men sit together in a classroom to receive instruction prior to a Real Men Sing! concert.
Contributed / Ken Klose

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to make music,” Staples Area Men’s Chorus Director Steve Hoemberg said. “Our very own chorus is made up of men of all ages and walks of life, including different levels of musical skill.”

The Real Men Sing! guest conductor will be Dr. Dwight Jilek, director of choral activities at Bemidji State University, with a special guest male chorus — the Bemidji State University “Musikanten,”

Overall participation is expected to exceed 175 singers, according to organizers. The concert will also feature several select soloists.

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“We pride ourselves as an organization in being inclusive. If guys are willing to join our group, then they have earned the right to sing,” Hoemberg said.


For more information about Real Men Sing! as well as information about other events of the Staples Area Men’s Chorus, visit or visit the group’s Facebook page.

Tickets for Real Men Sing! concert at Pillager Middle School gym are $10 per person or $25 for families. They can be purchased online at , at Nelson Insurance Agency on Second Avenue in Staples, and from chorus members and at the door.

This project was made possible by a grant from the Five Wings Arts Council with funds from the McKnight Foundation supplemented with Legacy funds and the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment, and donations from the Staples Lions Club and support from Popplers Music and the Staples Motley Community Foundation.

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