May 19, 2011By Luke Baynes Observer correspondent
On May 22, the angelic voices of Vermont’s youth will resonate with the embattled citizens of northeastern Japan, when teenage members of the Bill Reed Voice Studio host a cabaret concert to benefit victims of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that left thousands dead and thousands more without food or shelter.
The concert is the brainchild of Grace Heard, a junior at Champlain Valley Union High School, who heard the news of Japan’s tragedy while riding in the car with her mother, Laura Lomas. She immediately knew she had to do something to help.
“I thought, ‘I’m just one person and there’s not much I can do to benefit (the earthquake victims),’” said Heard. “So I thought it would be a great idea to put on a performance for our community to benefit their community.”
Heard will be one of 22 high school performers who will appear Sunday at Spotlight On Dance’s Studio Three, located at 50 San Remo Drive in South Burlington. The Broadway-style program of songs will begin at 5 p.m., with an encore performance at 7 p.m.
The young singers will come from various area high schools, but share the experience of honing their vocal skills under the tutelage of Reed, a Manhattan native who was one of the founders of the musical theater program at New York’s acclaimed Circle in the Square Theatre School.
Reed, who has a doctorate in vocal music education from Columbia University, started his Vermont studio in 1986. He noted that many Vermonters, such as Liana Hunt and Kate Wetherhead, have gone on to have successful Broadway careers and that his current crop of students is bursting with talent.
“These are experienced kids. They are some of the best high school voices in the area,” said Reed, who had particular praise for Heard, calling her “a top singer.”
Heard, accompanied by pianist Tim Guiles of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, will perform the song “Out Here on My Own” from the musical “Fame” at the concert. She chose the song because of its symbolic relevance to the plight of the Japanese earthquake victims.
“I thought there was a connection, because they really are out there on their own and are reaching out for help now,” Heard said.
Reed encouraged people to come to the show because it will help the needy and bolster the budding careers of his students.
“It’s a community activity that brings a number of towns together,” said Reed. “It’s a chance for the kids to show their talents for a good cause, so it will be social, it will be musical and fun and it will support the kids and their work to become performing artists.”
Tickets are available at the door and via www.StudioThreeVT.com. There is no charge for tickets, but donations are requested. All proceeds will go to Second Harvest Japan, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization dedicated to providing food to those in need.