4-H performing arts group celebrates 30th anniversary

By for CAES News

Over the years, members of Clovers & Company, Georgia 4-H’s performing arts group, have included young adults who went on to become award-winning singers and songwriters, Broadway performers, lawyers and teachers. In celebration of their many successes, Clovers & Company will hold a 30th Anniversary Concert March 19 at 7 p.m. at Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Eatonton, Ga.

Prepared Sugarland star

Clovers & Company alumni include Jennifer Nettles, lead singer of the country group Sugarland. Nettles performed with Clovers & Company from 1986 to 1993. She has received three Grammys, multiple awards in country music and produced several singles, including a Billboard No. 1 hit duet with Jon Bon Jovi called “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.”

The country singer/songwriter credits her Clovers’ experience for preparing her for future performances, including performing in front of 800,000 people at President Barack Obama’s inauguration on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. “That was a piece of cake because I had all of this experience to pull from and draw from,” Nettles said. “And nothing is scarier than being a teenager walking out in front of other teenagers.”

Songwriters and Broadway performers

Another Clovers & Company alumnus is Hillary Lindsey, who received a Grammy for writing Carrie Underwood’s No. 1 hit “Jesus Take the Wheel.” Lindsey has also written songs for Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Sara Evans, Kellie Pickler, Bon Jovi, Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw.

Three Broadway performers, one former Mickey Mouse Club member, one recording studio owner and one movie actress also emerged from Clovers & Company. Other alumni have released CDs, worked with church music ministries, become band directors or used their confidence gained from performing arts in other fields of work.

Dedicated and hard-working

Founded in 1980, Clovers & Company is the longest running and most successful 4-H performing arts group in the country. The production crew, stage cast and band members are 4-H’ers from across Georgia. They range in age from 10 to 18.

Competition to become a cast member is very keen. Georgia 4-H’ers travel to Rock Eagle each June to perform a two-minute presentation with the hopes of earning a coveted spot in the cast.

The group performs several times throughout the year, with at least one out-of-state performance. “They have to be dedicated and willing to work as a team,” said Cheryl Varnadoe, show coordinator and assistant show director. “It also requires a lot of support from parents and 4-H agents.”

Parental support has been essential in the success of Clovers & Company and 4-H staff support ensures that financial need does not prevent a child from participating. Scholarships are available to cover the cost of costumes and 4-H agents work together to plan carpooling for rides to auditions, rehearsals and performances.

For more information on Clovers & Company, call the Georgia 4-H office at 706-542-4444.

Kristin Strickland is a 4-H news writer with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.
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