By IVAN FLORES
The annual Stars on Stage benefit performance was held this past Wednesday in the Morris Lawrence building. The atmosphere was relaxed as the Washtenaw Community College Jazz Orchestra and Combos kicked off the event in the lobby. They performed several well-known tunes, including “Cantaloupe Island” and “A Few of My Favorite things.”
Meanwhile, people crowded into Towsley Auditorium, stopping at a table to drop of donations for C.S. Mott Children’s hospital and the Peace Neighborhood Center – “admission” was one unwrapped toy. The second part of the event included dance performances from WCC’s performing arts students, alumni and members of the Spotlight Dance Studio, a community partner.
“We’ve done it for (about) 20 years…It’s a fun performance; sophisticated enough to be presentable but yet not so lofty that it’s intimidating. We really want the students to have a fun experience,” said Noonie Anderson, department chair of the performing arts program.
Anderson placed emphasis on the teamwork that goes into putting performances together. The performing arts, she said, are by their pure nature collaborative. Her point was evident throughout the night – in everything from the choreography, to the performance with WCC’s Jazz ensembles, to the benefit aspect of the event. But she also said it was about taking risks.
Trevon Callahan, 22-year-old WCC student from Ypsilanti took the stage for nine minutes and appeared to captivate the audience. Callahan choreographed the entire dance, which was set to Melanie Martinez’s song “Soap.” Throughout the performance, he drew cheers from the audience with his gracefulness and energy. Anderson praised his solo for the quality and boldness of the performance.
The artists come from all walks of life. Duane Wells plays trumpet for the Jazz combo. He played in high school and even professionally afterwards, but gave it up when he started his career as an electrician for GM. He retired about six years ago, and decided to pick up his trumpet again.
Speaking about his decision to pursue music again, Wells said, “I love jazz. Music is like golf; you never master it but you always try to get better… I missed a lot of time and I’m trying to make it up.”
Carley Garcia is a liberal arts major and a member of the WCC competitive dance team and studying liberal arts.
She said, “I love (dance) because it’s something you can always do…You hear something and it just moves through you. Anyone can dance.”
The competitive dance team offered advice to the student community to get involved. Tryouts for the winter semester are Jan. 11 and 14. No experience is necessary, just commitment to practice. There are different classes and clubs for performers of all disciplines and skill levels. For more information about Washtenaw’s Performing Arts Program, contact Noonie Anderson.