ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Members of the Aberdeen Proving Ground community showcased their talents during the APG Festival of the Arts Weekend with "Tribute to the Troops," a patriotic three-act variety show,
and the APG Adults Got Talent and Kids Got Talent showcases at the Aberdeen Area Recreation
Center, Sept. 24 and 25. APG Festival of the Arts is entered into competition at Department
of the Army level each year. This is the first year it has included a theater production.

When Aberdeen Proving Ground called for talented acts to participate in the APG's Kids Got Talent and APG's Got Talent Adult showcases, a wide range of singers, dancers and musicians responded to present a memorable night of entertainment at the Aberdeen Area Recreation Center Sept. 25.

The shows' judges were Silvia Meranski and Richard Delbrook of the Chesapeake Community
Players and Roy Graphenreed of the EPRock Media Group. Also in attendance for both shows were Army Festival of the Performing Arts judges Darryl Allara and Ken Freehill.

Performers from the Chesapeake Community Players performed during breaks and intermissions.

The first place winner in the age 16 to 18 category was Kwame Parker, who sang, played keyboard, and captivated the audience with the song, "Still Here" by the gospel trio, The Williams
Brothers. Edward Minor of the Free State ChalleNGe Academy came in second for his energetic
dance to Michael Jackson's "Beat It," and ChalleNGe Dancers Lashae Lewis, Anina Ford Jasmine Dill and Loshoya Lee took third place after dancing to the song "If I Were A Boy," by Beyonce Knowles. Sam Spangler wowed judges and the audience enough to win first place and the
People's Choice Award in the age 15 to 17 category for his original song on drums, "Dirty Dish
Rags," followed by Rachel Bauer, in second place for her haunting rendition of the song "Angel"
by Sarah McLachlan. The age 10 to 12 category winners were Kristen Sloan in first place with
a charming rendition of the "1, 2 Step" by Ciara, and Jordan Oliver won second for the song "Cooler Than Me" by Mike Posner.

Other performers in the show included People's Choice winner Lisa Henson who sang a song
from the album Mali Music by recording artist Damon Albarn; Loretta Miller, who sang "Before He Cheats" by pop star Carrie Underwood; and Nicademas Weber of the ChalleNGe Academy who played guitar and sang an original song.

Patricia Devine of the U.S. Army Ordnance Center and Schools emceed the program. Guests included Maj. Gen. Nick G. Justice, Commander of APG and the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command; Col. Orlando W. Ortiz, APG Garrison and deputy installation commander, and RDECOM Command Sgt. Maj. Hector Marin who assisted Justice and Devine in presenting awards.

"Give them a great big hand because they were absolutely amazing," Justice said of the performers.

Most of the winners said they were humbled by the audience and judges reactions to their presentation.

"I picked this song because I like the artists and the message," said Parker who is a senior at
Joppatowne High School.

He said he's been singing "for years" and taught himself the keyboard three years ago.

"I've played by ear ever since," he said. "I was very comfortable and I thought I'd do well today."

Parker plans to attend UMBC or North Carolina State University to pursue a degree in computer

Spangler, at age 15, has been playing the drums since he was three. The Aberdeen High School 10th grader also writes his own music. He said he felt comfortable and confident on stage.

"The title doesn't mean anything," he said of his chosen song. " I just liked the name dirty dish rags."

Spangler also is looking toward a computer engineering degree.

Minor, who is halfway through his term as a ChalleNGe cadet, said he's been dancing since the age of 7. A native of Harlem, now living in Port Washington, Minor said he hopes to attend college
and pursue a career in dance.

Talented vocals, rap and even comedy made for great entertainment during the adult showcase.

Tikiela Mims, a Lockheed-Martin engineer from Elkridge walked away with first-place after singing her original ballad "Focus" while strumming on guitar. Mims opened the show singing the national anthem. While not judged, it also was a strong performance.

Jenny Wassom, an APG spouse took second place with the song "Redeemer," a gospel ballad that complimented her wide range.

In third was Ronald Walls, a retired APG chaplain who's energy captured the audience with the upbeat gospel tune "I Came to Praise the Lord." The People's Choice award went to Courtney Brewer, a civilian Family member who sang Carrie Underwood's "Angel," which was dedicated to her grandfather who passed away earlier in the week.

Ortiz and Command Sgt. Maj. Harold Ness of the 143rd Ordnance Battalion presented awards. Ortiz said it was a wonderful evening with a great job done by all contestants in both shows.

"It takes a lot of fortitude to get up and perform in front of an audience," he said.

He thanked the judges, Devine, and Earlene Allen, MWR lead programmer for putting on the show.

"You kept us entertained and did a wonderful job," Ortiz said.

Mims said she grew up singing in church and while happy with her job, she plans to keep writing music, singing and hoping for a musical career. She said a friend in the music business recommended that she try out for the contest to present her music to a live audience.

"This was a lot of fun," she said. "No matter whether you win or lose it's always a good feeling when you connect with the audience."

Wassom is the wife of Sgt. James Wassom of the U.S. Army Public Health Command (Provisional). She said she has been singing in church since she was old enough to talk.

"I was nervous at first but then I felt really good up there," she said. "I've been in talent shows before but not for a long time. I wasn't expecting so much wonderful talent. I'm truly honored."

Brewer is the daughter of Bob Brewer, an Aberdeen Test Center contractor and Diana Brewer of CERDEC. She said she missed a day of rehearsal due to the loss of her grandfather but wanted to finish what she started in his memory.

"I usually do country [music] but I stepped out of myself for this one," she said. "I felt confident up there and I'm glad I was able to do this for him."

Other contestants included Ashley Ramirez from the APG Garrison. Ramirez performed Lady Gaga's "I Want Your Love" dressed in an eye-popping Lady Gaga-like costume. Next was Kirby Kelbaugh, a Harford Community College student, singing Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah," followed by Ebony McClintock who sang an original song titled "Lost in Love."

Staff Sgt. Antonio Lewis, 143rd Ordnance Battalion, performed his original rap, "Just Hip Hop" and APG civilian Brett Comer, the show's lone comic, performed an original comedy routine.

The showcase's final contestants included Staff Sgt. Steve Edgerton, who performed the jazz piece "Speak to My Heart" by gospel musician Donnie McClurkin on guitar. Spc. Dennis Bontya
of the 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion performed the rap song "Bring the MC Back," guitarist Victoria White sang Colbie Caillat's "I Never Told You," and Staff Sgt. Johnathan Oliver of Fort Meade delivered a smooth rendition of the Luther Vandross classic, "Superstar."

Lewis also subbed as a judge during the APG Kids Got Talent Showcase and Edgerton provided background music on keyboard for several performers.

Chesapeake Community Players members provided additional entertainment during breaks and intermission. Trevor Biggs and Jim Rapposelli opened the show with a Jake and Elwood Blues Brothers routine and Sean Jamison drew raves for his Garth Brooks medley during the intermission. In addition, members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity performed a step show to a medley of Saturday Night Live tunes.

The judges expressed their impressions of the evening's performances.

"We were terribly impressed with the adults and the children," said judge Sylvia Meranski.

"I think it was an amazing evening," added Richard Delbrook. "This shows you the hidden talents people have that you don't get to see unless you get them out in the open."

"There's great talent here at APG," said Roy Graphenreed, co-judge and an entertainment promoter from the social network www.musicnews.com, based in Glen Burnie. "It's a plus for these young people that APG is willing to work to bring their talents out."

Army Entertainment consultants Darryl Allara and Ken Freehill said they were impressed as well. The two travel worldwide critiquing similar events for the Army Festival of the Arts.

They said the APG showcase was their final event of the season.

"We judge the overall production and look for outstanding presentations in all the disciplines; vocalists, instrumentalists, dancers, comedy and spoken word," Allara said.

"Talent wise, we consider all members of the military community."

"APG has a wealth of talent and should put on more and more events like this and the one last night," he added in reference to the "Tribute to the Troops Variety Show" performance the night before.

"It's important that the community shares in these programs and that children are encouraged to perform," he added. "APG seems to understand that."

Freehill added that Army Entertainment consultants are the "first line of scouts" for the U.S. Army Soldier Show.

"When we see a performance we like, we recommend that they get with MWR to prepare a packet and try out for the show," he said.

"We have about one-hundred names on the list so far this year. You can tell just by what you saw here tonight that the Army is full of talented people."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16