Students perform all-original material at Charter Tech cabaret

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SOMERS POINT – There was music in the air and youthful energy and talent everywhere at the Coffee House Cabaret Oct. 25 at Charter Tech High School for the Performing Arts.

Sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts, the annual event features all-original material written, arranged and performed by students.

Lindsey Evans, 17, a senior from Mays Landing, was clearly in her element on the cabaret stage, singing and playing guitar in two of her songs, "For Good" and "Give Me a Try."

"I write about things that happened in my life," Evans said, "because I find that's where my greatest inspiration comes from, and it's easiest to write about."

Evans, a vocal major, lists Jason Mraz and the Beatles as the two biggest influences on her music.

Charter Tech has given her the opportunity to perform on stage with professional musicians.

"After being here for four years, you kind of have to be comfortable, because we're into everything," she said. "It definitely prepares you for the stage."

Evans said music will always be her passion and she will always perform, but she doesn't plan to make it a career.

"I really want to be a teacher," she said.

The Coffee House Cabaret was created to showcase the next generation of singers and songwriters, according to office manager Phyllis London.

"As more and more students began writing original songs, it became clear that we needed a performance dedicated solely to these rising talents," London said. "Since the music is acoustic, the coffeehouse setting seemed perfect."

The students write across the genres, adding instrumentation and arranging backup vocals for many of the songs.

Sarah Holt, 14, a freshman from Galloway, sang a self-penned song called "Scream" accompanied by her cousin, Johnny Zappas.

"Every time I look at you it makes me want to scream," she sang.

"The lyrics are just about a person that puts you down all the time, that you don't like very much," she said.

To have an outlet for that kind of personal expression is the essence of Charter Tech. The cousins are members of a rock band called Either Way, but the  cabaret gave them a chance to perform the song acoustically, which gave more emotional impact.

"Actually, we never played that song like that before," Zappas said. "It was the first time playing it acoustically, and that was interesting."

Zappas, a senior, said Charter Tech has given him the opportunity to do what he loves to do and learn about what he wants to do, as well the opportunity to perform in different settings and in front of different audiences.

Freshman Brandi Aldridge of Galloway, who performed her original song "To a Fairy Tale," is also just discovering the range of her musical talents.

"It's so exciting to be here with all this talent," Aldridge said. "I never thought I would be able to do this. Here, I get one-on-one time with teachers, which I really need, and then I get to work on my major so much during the rest of the school year. I'm just thrilled."

Aldridge has taken up musical theater, which is the newest of the school's five artistic majors. London said the approach to theater is unique to the area and designed for the “triple-threat” performer: one who can act, dance and sing.

Aldridge has been singing in choirs since fourth grade and performing in plays since seventh. She said Charter Tech is pointing her in the right direction for a future that is already mapped out.

"I want to join a theater company," she said. "First I'll go to college and do what I need to do there, and I'll have acting when I can do it, and be a part-time nurse as a backup. In addition to my major, I'm taking honors classes here, which is building me up for the nursing part of it, so I'm getting what I really need."


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