Teen Cabaret to Empower Young Voices

 Pictured (left to right): Ari Cummings, Rachel Frank, Ariana Rivera, Jasper Fearon, Christian Henry

Pictured (left to right): Ari Cummings, Rachel Frank, Ariana Rivera, Jasper Fearon, Christian Henry

The need for accessible performing arts education in Ithaca has recently been the focus of local, national and even international news. Students at Ithaca High School (IHS) have organized and made their voices heard: socio-economic and racial barriers to arts training are no longer acceptable. In an effort to help break down those barriers, a talented group of local teens will lift their voices in song at a cabaret fundraiser for a performing arts scholarship to Flight Voice Studio. “Remix: a Cabaret” will be held at the Cherry Arts Space, 102 Cherry Street Ithaca, on Saturday, March 17, at 3:00 pm.

The performance will feature numbers from popular genres including musical theater, pop, and jazz. Homemade baked goods will be available for purchase.

The event is student-planned and run. The “Remix” theme was chosen as a way to break down gender boundaries and sing songs that speak to the performers, regardless of who the songs were written for. Women in the cabaret offer their own kind of power and swagger to classics like Sondheim’s “Agony” from “Into the Woods,” a duet between two frustrated princes. And songs typically sung by women, like “On My Own” from “Les Miserable,” take on a poignant, tender tone when sung by a young man.

The scholarship fund was established in 2013, for teens who can’t afford the private lessons necessary to succeed as a vocal performer. The idea came from students who wanted to see their talented friends have access to the same level of training they themselves enjoyed. The teens hope to raise enough money from the Remix Cabaret to fully support at least one student’s tuition next year. That’s about $3000.

“Good dance, acting and voice teachers charge a large amount because they are worth it,” said Ari Cummings, a member of Flight Voice Studio and a founding member of Students United, the group that raised concerns about the theater situation at IHS. “But kids shouldn’t have to be in a family that makes a certain amount of money to learn from good teachers. Scholarships allow more children from different backgrounds to come together and pursue something they love, and allows for an equal playing field.”

All the cabaret singers are students at Flight. The goal of the cabaret is to help other young singers gain vital experience through private lessons, group rep classes, and in performance.

“It’s a huge part of our mission at Flight to empower young voices,” said Sharon Costianes, Director and Voice Faculty at Flight Voice Studio, which will administer the scholarship.

Christian Henry, a previous cabaret scholarship recipient and now a freshman musical theater major at Ithaca College, said that receiving the scholarship “was a godsend because it allowed me to build the fundamental skills that were necessary for me to be the performer that I knew I could be, but financially was practically impossible for me to become.”

In 2018-19 Flight will be moving to an easily accessible downtown Ithaca location, adding a musical theater dance program, with plans to start an acting training program. Flight’s Triple Threat Summer Camp, which offers training in singing with Sharon Costianes, acting with Karl Gregory, and dance with Tucker Davis, is now open for registration.

“The studio program is geared to really support students who love to perform, and envelop them in a studio family. They work hard to hone their craft both as vocal technicians, and as actors,” said Costianes. “It’s demanding work. And they love it! So do I. It’s an honor to work with them.”

All the teens performing in the cabaret are also active members of Ithaca’s theatre community. Many of them have starred in school plays, Running to Places productions, and regional professional theatre. Some of them also sing with the Ithaca Children’s Youth Choir and Vitamin L, as well as their school choirs.

Admission to the cabaret is free, but donations will be requested for admittance.