Darke County Center for the Arts’ Arts In Education program was instigated in 1983 by local educator William C. Combs, who firmly believed that the arts “saved his life,” motivating him to rise above his poverty-ridden childhood to achieve success; Mr. Combs wanted students in our community to experience the wondrous possibilities presented by interaction with skilled artists sharing their talents.
Scores of outstanding artists have performed for thousands of youngsters during the ensuing years, as DCCA annually presents programming for students in every grade level of all local public schools, stimulating imaginations, delighting the senses, and inspiring souls.
Bill Combs would have been pleased with the outstanding performance presented by a cappella quintet VoicePlay as they performed for junior high students at Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall last week, and thrilled by the enthusiastic response of the students, many of whom left the auditorium uttering “That was amazing!”
VoicePlay, which consists of Eli Jacobson, Geoff Castellucci, Layne Stein, J. None, and Earl Elkins Jr., was a finalist on the fourth season of NBC’s The Sing-Off, and has since performed to acclaim at Disney theme parks, on cruise ships, and at venues around the world.
But what could a group of affable guys who sing without instrumental accompaniment do to inspire amazement in junior high kids? Well, “Just about everything they did in their show” would be my answer to that inquiry.
To begin with, members of VoicePlay are obviously doing what they love, a truth that they willingly share with their audience. The core members of the group have been singing together since they were boy sopranos in junior high school (a fact that truly amazes when one hears the sweet and dulcet low, low tones currently achieved by Geoff who, when asked, “How low can you go?” replied “To the notes at the bottom of the piano keyboard.”) They first sang barbershop, moved into doo-wop, and then kept evolving to become the amazing versatile singers that they now are.
The singers drop subtle motivational tidbits throughout the show, urging youngsters to discover their passion, but then continue to learn and grow while following their dreams, which is pretty much the pattern VoicePlay members followed to become so successful. Their chatter surrounding a quite complex and technically risky performance of an old and fairly simple jazz tune touted the value of teamwork, demonstrating that by helping each other, individuals can achieve success — or face failure — together. And their delightful performance of “One Note Samba” featuring lightning quick octave-jumping individual voicing provided an amazing example of the wonder that well-planned yet fearless teamwork can produce to triumph over possible risks.
But undoubtedly the most amazing component of a VoicePlay performance is the fully orchestrated sound produced by those five amazing voices as they smoothly move from one genre to another, filling the performance space with beautiful harmonies accompanied by diverse tuneful, rhythmic backing, creating an explosion of music that does not suffer one iota from lack of instrumental accompaniment. The fact that they all have been trained to play musical instruments undoubtedly adds to their ability to amazingly accompany their outstanding singing; they sing fascinating arrangements of songs from all eras, their repertoire ranging across a musical landscape that amazingly resounds with audiences of all ages and musical preferences.
VoicePlay performances provided our junior high school students with so much more than an assembly that got them out of class for a little while; delight, joy, excitement, inspiration, and perhaps motivation to think outside the box to achieve personal goals as one moves through life.
That’s exactly what DCCA’s AIE Series was meant to do, fulfilling the hope and dream of it’s original founder and confirming the wisdom of all those who have contributed to the program’s continuing success in the ensuing three and a half decades. Isn’t that amazing!