Putting their talent in the spotlight

11th annual event at Dunloggin Middle School allows pupils and teachers to showcase their fun side


For pupils at Dunloggin Middle School, it is hard to say which aspect of the annual talent show is more appealing: the opportunity to showcase your skills in front of your classmates or the pleasure of watching your teachers look silly.

Both pleasures were in ample supply Thursday, the day of the 11th talent show.

About 25 acts, ranging from Irish step-dance numbers and a tumbling routine to solo and group songs, were performed in the darkened cafeteria during the day, with a repeat scheduled for family and friends in the evening.

And, as tradition demands, two groups of teachers closed out the show. First were the Wicked Old Women, known as WOW, who danced to ABBA's "Dancing Queen" and other numbers. "We have no talent, so we just make fools of ourselves every year," said Sandi Witt, the seventh-grade reading teacher who organizes the event each year.

And then there were the Tired Old Men, a faculty band headed by seventh-grade science team leader Mike Petrovich, who played a mean guitar and could actually sing.

"He's our resident rocker," said Ellen Rice the guidance secretary, as she stood in the doorway of the crowded room, watching.

The event is organized by Witt and Paul Lavin, the school's music director. Starting in January, pupils audition to be in the show, Witt said.

Nearly everybody makes it, as long as their material is appropriate for a middle-school stage, Witt said. This year, there are 24 pupil acts in the two-hour show.

"The kids just do a fantastic job," said Principal Cher Jones. She noted that the show is not a competition - no winners are announced, and no prizes are given. It is simply a chance for pupils to showcase their abilities.

"It takes a lot of nerve to stand up in front of your peers and do it," she said.

Once the acts have been approved, there are two after-school rehearsals and one dress rehearsal, Witt said. Then it is time for the show.

No admission has ever been charged for the evening show, but parents often donate money, Witt said. This year, they were asked to give teddy bears or money toward the pediatric unit of Howard County General Hospital.

On Thursday morning, pupils gathered in a large classroom filled with sewing machines before and after they performed.

Energy was high. "When I went on stage, there were like hours of applause," said Esi Abercrombie, a sixth-grader who performed the song "Unwritten," by Natasha Bedingfield.

Esi's friends confirmed that she was exaggerating only a little. "Everybody loves her, even in rehearsal," said Joden Stoner, a seventh-grader.

"She's so good," agreed Sarah Radcliffe, also in seventh-grade, who had performed a tumbling routine with Joden.

Joden said they practiced a lot for their routine, so she was not too nervous. "Once we got up there and started doing it, it was fine," she said.

Christine Bagley, an eighth-grader, sang "Nothing," from A Chorus Line. "I was nervous before I went on, but once I started, it was fine," she said.

Sixth-grader Sade Dukes, who performed a hip-hop dance routine, said "it was scary at first," but she thought her performance went well.

Meanwhile, the last of the pupil acts was under way in the cafeteria. Skye Bennett was singing "Hotel Paper," a soulful Michelle Branch tune, as Lavin played guitar.

"You'll read about her some day," Witt said, indicating that the young singer had a bright future.

Then it was time for Witt to take the stage with the other Wicked Old Women - ESOL teacher Karen Kehm, seventh-grade English team leader Carol Meyer and Claire Meitl, who had taken a job in the central office and was returning for the show.

The four women wore blue jeans and button down short-sleeve shirts as they danced to "We Are Family," by Sister Sledge. Then they took off the shirts to reveal black t-shirts and red satin sashes. Kehm had one that said "Dancing Queen" in glitter. The others said "In Training."

Kehm showed her moves while the sound system played "Bandstand Boogie," the boppy Barry Manilow hit. The audience cheered.

The Tired Old Men took the stage next. Petrovich was on guitar, with Lavin, tech-ed teacher Stuart Sklar and science teacher Eric Pellegrino on other instruments. Even Jaime Goffaux, the spouse of sixth-grade math team leader Kathleen Goffaux, had been invited to perform with the group.

Petrovich started off with "Hey Jude," by the Beatles, then quickly segued to the Buffalo Springfield classic, "For What Its Worth."

He finished with Jimmy Buffett's "Volcano."

The band received a strong round of applause. "I actually volunteered to be a back-up singer," Rice said. "But nobody got back to me."

Maybe next year.

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