Local high school singers team up for music lesson, concert
Men can sing and they should be proud to do it, even when it's a cappella or a barbershop style.
That message came through clearly on Friday at Bartlett High School as nearly 70 students, all boys, with choral backgrounds from East Anchorage High School, South Anchorage High School, Service High School and Bartlett High School joined voices.
The program was initiated and financially supported by Steve Stripling, originally from Texas, who owns an advertising agency and also hosts a local radio show. While back in Dallas helping care for his wife's mother, he got connected with a singing group. Now, he wants to see that love of music flourish in local schools.
"There's a saying that harmony brings everyone together and giving these kids a touch of different experiences, there's a whole world out there that will open up to these kids," he said. "One of the things I like to tell the kids is if 'hey you're gonna carry a pipe, make it a pitch pipe, and you're going to hang in a gang, you might as well get a lead, a baritone, a tenor and a base.'"
He has an audience — one that's paying attention.
"A lot of men who can sing out there and pretty much they just got to show it out to everybody and just show their talent to everybody and as we come together we can be as one unit," Kymani Vaivai, a junior from East Anchorage, said.
Stripling said he believes the common bond would bring them together.
"Here's the thing that's cool about music, especially a capella, is all these kids are teenagers and they're decades younger, but it's a language we all share with each other," he said. "I mean, teenagers, they actually are listening to us."
Stripling teamed up with Anchorage music teachers, East Anchorage's choir director Melissa Bledsoe Fisher and Bartlett's program lead Katy Green for the event.
"We wanted to introduce the boys to the barbershop style and who doesn't love Doo Wop? It's four-part men's harmony, it has a little sass,'" Bledsoe Fisher said.
Her colleague Green says there are plenty of musical styles, but this is like dusting off an old record and going back in time.
"There's so much more music out there than what they currently know," she said. "And if we can get them to enjoy different genres, that's just going to make them love music even more and that's really what we're here to do."
Stripling also enlisted the help of his friend and voice coach Eddie Martinez. The two sang together in a chorus in Dallas. Martinez traveled from his home in Austin to be with his new students and loved that they took to the style so quickly.
"I was very happy to see because they're excited to do it and it's good music and the environment's right," he said. "It was exciting to see that."
The singers didn't know what they'd be working on, so there was no opportunity to rehearse. After a couple of hours of practice together under Martinez' tutelage, the sound was sweet. Along with an up tempo Italian folk song, they also sang the 1956 classic "In the Still of the Night," originally done by The Five Satins.
By early afternoon, they put up a performance in the auditorium and sent it out on Facebook Live. Many hope it's the first of more to come.
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