May 8, 2006
A new Hamden High student effort holds its first fundraiser for the hungry
Story and photos by Sharon Bass
Here's the kids' goal: raise $7,200 to receive a truckload of $35,000-$50,000 worth of groceries for 400 economically poor Hamden households.
Last Saturday, the kids -- a newly formed group of Hamden High students called Hamden Helping Hunger -- got about a grand closer to its goal. It threw a competitive "New York Style Talent Show" at Thornton Wilder Hall, drawing 6-year-olds to middle-aged folks. Organizer/parent Ec'sha MarQuez said $1,400 was raised, of which roughly $400 went to event expenses. The truckload of food would come from the international Christian group Feed The Children.
The first performer of the evening was also the youngest. Maie Dingus, 6, chose to sing "Reflection" from Disney's "Mulan." However, there was a pregnant pause before she began. The guy who was spinning the CDs with instrumental backgrounds for the singers thought the song was "Reflections," a hip-hop tune.
Maie stood still on stage, looking puzzled, as she listenend to the unfamiliar music. The error was fixed and the Ridge Hill student went on to deliver a very sweet and perfectly in tune rendition of the Disney song. Her mother and father, 8-year-old sister, Eilee, uncles, an aunt and grandparents from Bridgeport came to see her.
Trophies were given to first- and second-place winners from each category and third-placers got a prize (most categories had two to four competitors).
There were four judges -- Hamden High English teacher Leonora Henderson, Ridge Hill teacher Doreen Stohler, Hamden Arts Commission Chair George Moore and Rodger Gabriel of People's Bank. But their job was not to determine who was the best. It was to determine whom the audience clapped for most vigorously.
Maie Dingus was one of four in the young children's singing category. First place went to Elisa Kanner, 10, for a charming "Tomorrow."
There was also a "Sandman" on stage. Hamden Middle School guidance counselor Roland Byrd played the part. He sat next to a broom, ready to sweep off bad acts. But, of course, he swept off no one. "That would be cruel to do to kids," he said before showtime.
The only time he might have used the broom was during a skit performed by adults Lois Gilbert and Wynter Woody. Woody played a fake doctor and Gilbert a potential patient who wanted to know what she could get fixed for $60. Woody tells her what she can't afford: a brain tumor, lupus, testicular cancer. If there were any humorous lines they were drowned out by the tasteless theme.
Otherwise, the show brimmed with high, high energy, some great talent and stage attitude.
Julie Rizzo, 15, did a tap dance routine that rivaled that of New York pros. Not only were her steps tight and clean, but she was also very personable on stage, remembering to smile and make love to her audience.
Rizzo competed against Stephanie Joyce, 10, another solo dancer, and two groups -- 6 Lil Mamas (who were 4 Lil Mamas last Saturday night) and CT's Finest, a large group of teens. Both groups moved around the stage with attitude and strength, and were quite impressive and fun to watch.
The audience chose CT's Finest for first place and Rizzo for second. Then organizer MarQuez announced the rules had changed. The tap dancer was in her own category and since she had no competition was also given a first-place trophy. That gave Lil Mamas second place, instead of third.
Same thing happened in the "Spoken Word" category. Nicole Myrie, 12, clearly won the audience over with her poem about equality -- and was then told by MarQuez she was in a category by herself. First place instead went to Christopher Singleton, who sang a comedic song while playing the piano. And Aaron Carpenter, 16, got second place in the category of two for his gospel rap performance.
A special note about 11-year-old Justin Green, who was truly in a category of his own Saturday night. The young boy played the classical violin with awesome grace and skill. After the show, he said he'd like to go pro.
May 1, 2006
Story by Chris Clark; photos by Dave Amrani
Let me start off by saying that the final round last Saturday of The Space's Battle of the Bands was one of the best shows I have ever been to. The musical talent and diversity was amazing. As a judge, I was forced to listen more carefully and give more thought to each act than I normally do. The music scene here is in much better shape than I thought. At the risk of sounding cliché, all these bands deserve credit for getting up there and doing their thing. Here's my review of the final round.
Two winners were to be picked by the end of the night. One would be purely based on what we as judges decided; the other would be our choice between the two bands that drew the most people. The judges' vote was unanimous for The Queen-Killing Kings.
The two top-draws were Bushwhack and Until We Fall. This is where it got sticky. At first we went around the room saying which band we'd vote for. Some of the judges couldn't decide, though, and it was an even split between the ones who could. After a good 20 minutes of deliberation, Bushwhack won the vote, 4-3. I was one of the three. The thing that put Bushwhack over the top was that they are doing something completely original, while Until We Fall is catering to the current trend.
My view was that Until We Fall brought in an audience of peers, whereas Bushwhack drew parents and family. From being in a band, I know that it's much harder to gain the respect of your peers than to get a carpool of family members to a show. I know for a fact that both bands worked very hard to get people out. Originally, the draw vote was going to be based simply on numbers without the judges' vote. Bushwhack drew more than Until We Fall so it's fitting that they won the draw vote.
Each year these Battle of the Band events keep getting better and better. This was a great experience. We all got to witness some bands we didn't know about. I know it sounds corny, but I really wish there weren't just two winners. All of these bands deserve credit and everyone who made it to the finals should know that they deserved to be there.
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