February 1, 2014

The thrill of the stage

By Christopher Smith
christophersmith@daltoncitizen.com

— Eleven-year-old Elyza Guzman was prepped to sing her version of “Grenade” by Bruno Mars to a crowd at Crosspointe Christian Centre Saturday evening. She said she was ready to rock the 11th annual Showcase of the Stars event, a Whitfield Education Foundation talent program that offers a forum for student singers and musicians.

She got the courage to get on stage. She leaned to the microphone. And then — nothing happened. Her music didn’t start.

Something somewhere happened, leaving Elyza, a North Whitfield Middle School student, standing on the stage in silence. So school officials asked her to let the next contestant go up while they sorted out the technical difficulties.

Then she went back up. And the music still didn’t start.

“It was pretty scary when that happened,” she said.

She realized she had two choices: give into her fear and run or start singing something.

“And I couldn’t just run out right there. I kind of had to go with it,” she said. So she sang a cappella version of “Grenade,” just using her voice without any accompaniment.

“The music, it kind of goes a little quick, so I was worried it would go too fast and I would mess up,” she said.

No music meant Elyza could go at her own pace. She said she did a “pretty good job.”

“I love Bruno Mars,” she said. “I’m can’t go that low or that high. So ‘Grenade,’ was right in the middle. I really like that song. When it first came out (in 2010) I sang it over and over and over and over and over again. I think it makes me think of my father. He recently passed away (two years ago). So, you know, it makes me, think, ‘If you were still here, I would do these things for you.’”

Makayla Cronan, a 14-year-old student also from North Whitfield, sang “Our Story” by country megastar Taylor Swift. She said getting in front of the audience takes a lot more bravery than most people realize.

“Taylor Swift sings really good and she’s my role model,” she said. “I hopefully make music as a career. It’s exciting and nervous to get on stage. I thought, ‘Everyone is going to be staring at me.’ I think I did good, I guess.”

Roman Henderson, a Phoenix High School student who played guitar alongside Makayla, said he’d never played for such a big crowd.

“I usually just play for church,” he said, smiling to Makayla. “I think we both did good.”

Showcase of the Stars is one of the foundation’s fundraisers to increase student learning opportunities, reward achievements and honor retirees, officials said.

“We appreciate our presenting sponsor Precision Products, Inc.,” Mary Ellen Kinsey, foundation director, said. “We are especially grateful to Crosspointe for allowing us to use their phenomenal facility.”