Move over, boring bake sales. Last Sunday night’s concert at the World Cafe Live at the Queen in downtown Wilmington may be a more fun way to raise money for your school while showcasing student talent.
“Ursuline Academy Coffeehouse,” featuring performers from Ursuline, Padua Academy and Salesianum School, was held April 22 in the Queen’s larger downstairs venue. According to Joe Louden, chair of the fine arts department at Ursuline and music teacher at all three schools, the event felt less like a fundraiser and focused more on the student-performers.
“It really didn’t take on a fundraiser feel. We just wanted to have fun,” he said.
A standing-room crowd of about 400 braved a rainstorm and were treated to two hours of musical and dramatic offerings from about 35 students from the three schools.
The performers went through a lengthy audition process prior to being considered for inclusion in the show, according to Louden.
Gayle Dillman, co-founder of Gable Music Ventures, came up with the original idea of showcasing young performers in a coffeehouse setting. When her daughter, Erica, an Archmere senior, began pursuing music seriously, Dillman was inspired to start her business.
“I really wanted her to have an opportunity to perform. When I saw how special it was to have her on stage, when I saw how inspired the kids became to perform, it really became like a mission for me, to bring original music to emerging artists.”
Gable Music is a Wilmington-based music promotion company that focuses on providing original artists with a way to showcase their talents without age restrictions.
The over-21 restriction on most performance venues is a hindrance for young artists, Dillman says. “We don’t have enough all-ages venues” in the area. She also knows how important involvement in music and the arts is to teens. “When kids are given the opportunity to create, then they are not doing other things.”
The first concert coordinated by Gable Music was in January in the smaller upstairs room at the Queen for Archmere Academy. A concert for Tatnall School soon followed. When Louden heard about the Tatnall show, he thought, “what a cool way for kids to express themselves, on a big stage, out in the community,” and contacted Dillman to see how Ursuline could be involved.
While all the shows have been at the Queen so far, April 22’s “kicked it up a notch,” said Dillman, by being held in the larger room at the theater.
The students performed numbers in a range of styles from Broadway to country, jazz and blues to pop and rock. Two students presented dramatic soliloquies; one on homelessness, the other on teen suicide. Some singers played guitar or piano, while others were accompanied by Louden on piano, or a backup band comprised of local teachers.
It was a thrill for some of the students to perform on the stage that has hosted recording stars and Grammy winners.
Katie Houser, a freshman at Ursuline who belted out Evanescence’s “My Immortal,” said that at first she was nervous. “When I saw everyone out there and the lights set in, I was like, ‘oh my gosh I can’t do this,’ but as I started getting into it, I got confident and the band started playing. I was like, ‘oh, yeah, I got this.’”
The most unusual presentation of the night was from Padua’s Colleen Moore, who incorporated hand claps, plastic cups and a table to provide percussion for her rendition of Lulu and the Lampshades’ “When I’m Gone.”
Ursuline alumna Nichole Thomas, who graduated in 2010, also returned to support her alma mater and performed Adele’s “Turning Tables.” Stephanie Molloy, a senior at Padua, performed a duet with Louden, who also performed some of his original compositions.
Justice Gregory, a sophomore at Ursuline, felt confident as she performed her spoken-word piece on the troubles of a young homeless woman. “I had a lot of support from my friends, so I felt very good.”
In one of the final numbers of the night, Ursuline sophomore Rocio Posada sang Whitney’s Houston’s arrangement of “I Will Always Love You” to a standing ovation.
Another concert coordinated by Gamble Music Ventures is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend to benefit Archmere. Dillman says that it’s been gratifying working on these projects. “People want to get involved at all levels. It inspires the faculty, it inspires the alumni. Everybody wins.”