Take 12 talent acts, sprinkle in a dash of competitiveness and add a generous dollop of good-will, and you’ve got yourself a well-balanced show.
Last Wednesday, the Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church was the stage for dancers, singers and musicians of all kinds participating in Emory’s Got Talent, an event put on by the Emory University Pre-Health Association (EUPHA) in order to raise money for the millions of people affected by the January earthquake in Haiti.
“After the earthquake, I really wanted to do something to help the people in Haiti. I saw everything on CNN and I was so distraught,” said Elise Mike, EUPHA volunteer coordinator and Emory’s Got Talent organizer. “I couldn’t even sleep. I wanted to put something together to help them.”
Mike immediately began organizing the event based on the NBC show “America’s Got Talent.” Running about two hours long, the show hosted an eclectic mix of performances ranging from a flutist to a full band and several engaging solo vocalists. In honor of Haiti, the Haitian national anthem was sung by College junior Noemie Guillaume and College senior Robert Pierre following a heartfelt poetry performance by one of the hosts, Christine Fleury, a native of Haiti.
With extra support from the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the audience of about 75 cheered and encouraged each of the performers. Of the most entertaining was a roller skate performance by No Breaks, better known as grad student Michael Tuma. Tuma danced to a type of Chicago style music, named JB Style after music legend James Brown, that many of us have probably only seen in the 2005 movie “Roll Bounce.”
Usually only seen on skating rinks, it proved to be one of the most interesting and unexpected performances of the night as Tuma, equipped with sunglasses and black roller skates, danced across the stage and awed the audience with this daring moves on only two wheels. Gliding on what seemed to be natural extensions of his body, Tuma moved rhythmically to the beat, bouncing on his heels, dipping low and at one point even sliding down the stairs.
During intermission, music duo Perfect Dissonance entertained the audience with two acoustic songs, “FYI” and “Wally.” Chris Dixon and Sharod Allen, who make up Perfect Dissonance, played guitar and sang in a style true to hip-hop yet reminiscent of the sometimes humorous lyrics of artists like Lupe Fiasco. Dressed in near hipster clothing, Allen wore suspenders while Dixon’s cuffed jeans lead to fresh white Chuck Taylors, all of which added to the new-age appeal of the performers.
After intermission the show continued with College junior Felicia Long on the flute, who moved the audience with a classic yet calming performance. The church then became dark until the a spotlight lit up the stage and College junior Omotola Ajibade, a spoken word artist, appeared.
Ajibade’s first piece was a heartbreaking and original poem titled “Wipe My Tears,” written for a friend who died five years ago. Ajibade spoke with emotion and in his second performance, which he described as his “love letter to music,” nearly propelled himself off stage as the words radiated throughout the room.
The night ended with College freshman Alan Zhu singing Michael Jackson’s “Break of Dawn.” Zhu is well-known for his R&B performance skills and did no less than what the audience would have expected as he passionately sang the song of such a revered and famous artist. The audience even began to sing along as Zhu cradled the microphone, hitting each note with a romantic precision.
After the performances, the judges, made up of Emory dance department music operations administrator Kendall Simpson, dance senior lecturer George Staib and Emory alum John Roberson, chose three finalists who were then placed by audience applause. Band Absolute, composed of College freshmen Ju Hyun Suh, Jae Il Hwang and Sung Whan Jeon, all of whom played the electric guitar, drummer YeonHee Song and keyboardist Sul Ki Lee, won first place for their performance of Kelly Clarkson’s version of “Behind Blue Eyes.”
Second Place went to PersuAsian, an all-girl squad that started in 2008 originally for Asian students but expanded to hip-hop performances while maintaining their original roots. Their performance consisted of a variety of vixen routines that ended in an intricate performance which mimicked classic fight scenes yet incorporated traditional East Asian fans.
College freshmen Alex Ahn and junior Anish Shah received third place for their unique rendition of OneRepublic’s “Apologize”, Something Corporate’s “Konstantine” and Augustana’s “Boston.” Ahn played the violin for “Apologize” and “Boston” before pulling out pencils to play for “Constantine” while Shah continued on the piano. With the unexpected twist of the pencil beats, their performance proved to be memorable and original.
Emory’s Got Talent raised more than $530 from ticket sales at the door alone and more tickets were also sold before the show. All of the money raised through ticket sales will be donated to the Hope for Haiti Foundation, which has been providing various kinds of aid to the nation for more than 20 years.
“We decided to donate the money to Hope for Haiti instead of the Red Cross because we can’t tell the Red Cross that we want the money to go to Haiti,” said Mike. “The Red Cross uses it for a lot of different causes, which is good, but we would like to help Haiti specifically.”
In addition to the money raised from the talent show, Mike was able to convince the EUPHA to donate $500. This money will be given to Partners in Health, which is an organization that has been in Haiti for more than 20 years working to improve education, health care and the quality of life.
Emory’s Got Talent managed to assemble some of the most entertaining and original talents on campus. The 12 performances proved that not only can Emory students excel beyond the confines of an exam, but that the hearts of even the busiest pre-med students are in the right place as they do all they can to raise money to support those less fortunate while providing diverse entertainment for all to enjoy.
— Contact Courtney Ward