Benefit concert showcases SMC talent

Some of Santa Monica College's musical talents graced The Broad Stage on Friday, Nov. 1 for the SMC applied music program's annual benefit concert. Led by SMC jazz professor Keith Fiddmont, the concert offered students a chance to showcase their talents, while raising funds for scholarships that allow transfer music students to attend a university of their choice.

This year's concert featured a diverse selection of music, ranging from classical to modern jazz, performed by 13 students who were selected by their peers out of 30 students through a silent vote.

When the concert began, the talent of the selected performers was obvious from the start. Larae Ransom, accompanied by the student jazz band, opened the night's event with a vocal rendition of Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo" that had some of the audience cheering.

Student Jafet Bucaram sang "The Girl From Ipanema" that flowed with the jazz band's cool breezes of Brazilian jazz. One treat during this performance was that Fiddmont himself played the saxophone for the number.

One stunning performance came from Kacey Baughan, who delivered a soaring version of the jazz song "Get Happy." Her singing was full of energy with a voice that projected an impressive force.

Classical pieces were also performed such as Camille Saint-Saens' dark piece "Danse Macabre," which violinist April Shih played with sharp precision and gusto. There was a nice balance between moods and pieces as diverse as "La Flute de Pan," performed by Christopher Rutt, transitioned well into jazzier numbers like "Puttin' On The Ritz," which was sung by Laura Jackman. A little touch of Latin atmosphere was offered with "Fractured Mariachi," performed by a quartet made up of violinists Shih and Yerahm Paul Lee, Gracie McAleer on the viola and Sohyun Jang at the cello.

After the concert ended, some of the performers shared their thoughts backstage. Some revealed the challenges they had to face prior to the show. "I've been working with my voice teacher three times a week," Baughan said. "After today, my life is going to be a whole lot easier. My life has been revolving around this performance. Now I will be able to focus on my classes."

Taylor Bredberg, who played the piano during "Danse Macabre," said the hardest part of performing is "walking out onstage."

"That's nerve-wracking," he added. "After walking out, you're good to go."

Dan Abrams, one of the winners of the most recent scholarship, attended the concert and also shared his thoughts after watching those following in his footsteps perform.

"It was phenomenal," he said. "I am so proud of these guys. I did this show last year. It's different being in the audience and watching my friends and classmates give these phenomenal performances. I am honored to be a part of this program."

Abrams encourages every student who wants to study music to join the SMC applied music program.

"Do it; follow your dream," he said. "If you're passionate about music, this is a great place. At what other school do you get the biggest stage west of the Disney Concert Hall as your home stage? Most students never get that opportunity at a two-year school, so take advantage of it."

But most importantly, Abrams added, "practice, practice, practice."

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