Written by Chris Boyle Wednesday, 12 February 2014 00:00
For one night only, the students of Island Trees High School got to strut their stuff under bright lights and pounding speakers in front of a capacity audience, displaying their natural abilities in the areas of song and dance at the school’s 2014 Talent Show.
J. Peter Hansen, a music teacher at the middle and high schools, has been running the talent show for over two decades, and he said that it’s become quite the spectacle after its initial humble beginnings many years ago.
“I myself have been doing this for 21 years,” he said. “We started with a little tiny mixing board and a DJ set up in the band pit, but when they refurbished the auditorium, they put all this beautiful sound equipment in, and now we can sit back in the booth and run it all.”
The 2014 Talent Show featured a whopping 32 acts played in front of an amped-up audience of students and parents in the high school’s auditorium, ranging from individual singing, dancing, and band performances; however, as finely-tuned as the displays
were, Hansen noted that they were the result of hours and hours of hard work.
“We start in September...I have an initial sign-up meeting, and then a second meeting to confirm that the students really want to do this, and then a third meeting where the kids present the songs they want to do,” he said. “Then we start a knock-down, drag-out audition process after the winter holiday break, call-backs, and rehearsals...every day after school I’m working with people who need extra help.”
This year, every single student that auditioned for the Talent Show was accepted, although some only made it after a great deal of practicing and work; the day before the show, Hansen said that he oversaw a last-minute marathon dress rehearsal that spanned from 2:30 in the afternoon all the way to 8 p.m. that night.
However, with all the time he devotes to the students participating in the Talent Show, Hansen said that his efforts are hamstrung by recent budget cuts in the school district that have him spread a little more thinly than he would like.
“It makes our jobs much harder,” he said. “You don’t have as much time to spend with the students, because you’re scattered all around doing all different types of jobs, so the time is more limited for when I can actually work with the students.”
Senior Richard Wiemer said that his performance as “The Richard Wiemer Experience,” which was featured him singing and gyrating with back-up dancers to a variety of electronic tunes, was very much influenced by issues he had experienced as last year’s talent show.
“Last year my act caused controversy...the school made me change it three hours before the show because it was too provocative,” he said. “So, most of the songs I chose this year to get back them, but not in a vicious manner...I just wanted to be myself, and be outstanding. I feel like my performance was amazing. I’m absolutely blessed that it went that way.”
Emily Meyer, also a senior, sang to a piano piece that she wrote entitled “Neverland,” which she said was a deeply personal expression a recent hardship she had experienced.
“I was going through a rough time, and music is always my outlet, so I just got some music together, wrote some lyrics, and it just happened,” she said. “I was in the talent show last year and I did an original song then as well, but I had someone else sing it for me...but this year my mom was all about me singing it, and it felt great.”
Seniors Warren Tierney and Zach Milack, in addition to serving as co-MCs of the Talent Show, also were giving the honor of being the last act when they performed a rap duet called “Hall of Fame Remix.”
“I think it was pretty cool that we got to close the show...I don’t know if I could have thought of a better act to do to close it,” Tierney said. “Zach and I have been trying to do this for years, but for whatever reason, we just couldn’t. And this year we just pulled it together and closed an amazing show...every performer was great.”
“I wrote the song about two years ago, and I sent to Warren and he loved it,” Milack said. “Warren and I just ended up rocking it, and being the MCs was really cool as well.”
Senior Christina Tawari, who has been dancing since she was three years old, performed a unique Latin Salsa dance combined with contortionist aspects that was a real crowd-pleaser.
“The music I chose reminded me of the summer and the beach...I dedicated the dance to the summer and a very special moment in my life that I had then,” she said. “The dance came out perfectly, and as a senior, it was a great ending to my last year here at Island Trees.”
Hansen, at the completion of the Talent Show, was noticeably moved by the performances of his students; clearly, he said, this show was the highlight of his 21 years in running it annually.
“I think it was phenomenal...I was crying five times throughout the show,” he said. “I’ve noticed in the last three or four years that the musicians are getting more musical...it’s not just a bunch of garbage that they’re copying off the radio, they’re actually listening to music and writing good melodies and their own tunes, and the culture level of the students has risen way, way up. For me, this was the best, most unique show ever.”