Watching Fresno's young talent; are they tomorrow's stars?

The Fresno BeeJune 6, 2013 

I'm sitting center stage, watching the Good Company Players Junior Company pre-show for "Fiddler on the Roof" and this kid Isaac (his name is printed on the front of the T-shirt he's wearing), he is killing it.

The cast is doing a medley of pop-rock classics with the theme of architecture (for "Fiddler on the Roof," get it?) and Isaac is singing "Heartbreak Hotel."

He only gets a few seconds, and the performance is a bit like watching old "Star Search" videos, but his voice is strong and soulful, and it is hard to deny the talent or the potential.

The kid is up there on stage with a microphone, grinning like he's having the most fun in the world, and in that moment, it hits me: This kid should start a band.

These kids should all start bands.

I'm not suggesting the local music scene start poaching talent from the Junior Company, although there are some great voices among the members.

Nor do I assume these kids are at all interested in starting bands, writing songs or playing original music.

But the idea that these kids could be the next wave of local acts, a new Light Thieves or Murder Park (two bands I love), is exciting.

Mostly, watching the show was a reminder that the creative mind starts young, and that talent needs fostering.

The Junior Company is a shining example of how that can be done.

Members are chosen on the basis of things like potential, motivation and commitment and are expected to be mature and professional.

The performances come off as well rehearsed, because they are.

Being a company member is no small commitment, for the performers and their families. It's 14-19 weeks of Saturday rehearsals and Thursday through Sunday performances.

The work pays off.

There is a long list of actors who have graduated from the Junior Company ranks and gone on to become stars. Clovis' Chris Colfer, for example. There is an even longer list, no doubt, of those who have stayed to play active parts in the local theater community.

Of course, the Junior Company is not the only outlet in town. There are dance studios and community orchestras working to provide opportunities for children. The Youth Orchestras of Fresno "Accent on Access" violin program just performed at the Tower Theater with the acoustic rock band Before Perils.

The biannual Swede Fest movie festival was started, in part, to get kids involved in filmmaking. The idea being that kids would be inspired by seeing the work of others on the big screen. Maybe they would watch the films and think, "I can do that."

In truth, the kids who are truly moved to create and perform, the ones who find ultimate pleasure on the stage or in front of a microphone or camera, will create outlets of their own.

They will make and post their homemade videos online.

They'll start a band out in the garage and make enough noise to drive the neighbors crazy.

These kids will save up to buy a guitar, without knowing how to play.

That's what local musician Blake Jones did. He was 15 when he saw an ad in the classified section of the newspaper and had to have that guitar. He had his dad drive him to pick it up (and lend him a couple of dollars to boot).

They will then spend days in their rooms fumbling over the fretboard. Jones did that, too.

This column is for those kids. The would-be dancers, actors and singers. The guys like Isaak. To them I say: Be like Nike. Just do it.

And know we'll be watching and waiting.

The reporter can be reached at jtehee@fresnobee.com, at (559) 441-6479 or on Twitter @JoshuaTehee

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