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Arlington's Jazzmine rocks with ‘Media Overload’

ARLINGTON — Arlington High School students condensed several decades' worth of generational musical touchstones into a three-hour extravaganza of colorful costume changes and elaborate light-and-sound effects.

Perhaps even more impressively, the representative selections from each era of musical entertainment were chosen by the students themselves.

The AHS Jazzmine vocal ensemble's annual stage show at the Linda M. Byrnes Performing Arts Center is offering audiences a "Media Overload" this year, and its inaugural performance on the evening of Feb. 25 drew applause from a packed house of attendees throughout the night.

The 18-member group hopscotched from the '80s New Wave movement to silver screen standards, before turning to radio hits from the '40s, '50s and '60s. The soundtracks of Disney classics and the musical" Grease" each received their own segment, as did a Saturday Night Live-themed skit punctuated with blues and jazz tunes. After an intermission, the final half of the program was devoted to an iPod-style musical "shuffle," with familiar favorites from the movies "Top Gun," "Sister Act," "Dreamgirls," "Avatar" and "Pink Floyd The Wall," concluding with "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" from "Hair."

"We hand-picked these songs because they're ones that we're interested in and listen to," said senior tenor Jordan Tanguay, a fourth-year Jazzmine member. "We just thought it'd be really cool to have them in the show."

"I knew all the Disney ones," said junior first soprano Kelsey Ghirardo, a second-year Jazzmine member. "I grew up with oldies like the music from 'Grease.'"

Senior soprano Danielle Parker, a fan of '80s and '90s music, admitted that she'd never listened to jazz before joining Jazzmine three years ago, while Tanguay credited Jazzmine with opening him up to musical genres outside of jazz and blues, most notably rock and roll. For Ghirardo, the biggest learning curve of this year's show has been developing a good working relationship with a number of new Jazzmine members.

"We lost 17 seniors last year," Ghirardo said. "We've had to teach a lot of new folks what's expected and how to perform."

Ghirardo nonetheless praised her fellow Jazzmine members for working so cooperatively with one another, which Parker and Tanguay agreed "helps keep your head straight" by assuring that everyone's primary focus remains on the show itself. Tanguay added that he finds fulfillment in working with such talented people.

"It's all worth it when you watch everyone's faces in the audience," said senior second soprano Kristin Wreggelsworth, a second-year Jazzmine member. "We want them to experience a whole bunch of different types of music that they'll like."

"It's not about them learning the musical genres thoroughly," Tanguay said. "We're just here to try and fill them with joy."

"We also want them to see that it's possible for high school students to perform at this level," Ghirardo said.

Jazzmine Director Lyle Forde, who provided the voice of the stern schoolmaster in the group's performance of "Another Brick in the Wall," was far more effusive in his praise for the students after the show.

"Every year is fantastic," said Forde, who's also directed the parents of a number of current Jazzmine members during their own high school careers. "I'm thrilled that all these new students have risen to the bar. They've started off this year with a bang, and what's great about that is that they'll only get better each night."

Brenda Ulinski, mother of senior bass voice Andrew Ulinski, can attest to the behind-the-scenes challenge of putting on such a show.

"With as nervous and tired as they looked during last night's run-throughs, you wouldn't be able to tell from tonight," Brenda Ulinski said Feb. 26, after her son and Ghirardo performed the "Danny" and "Sandy" roles in the "Grease" segment. "They totally pulled out everything they had and were completely in character. I'm proud to be Danny Zuko's mom."

"I know how much hard work these kids have put into this, after school and on weekends" said Joe Tanguay, father of Jordan. "Juggling this with school to keep their grades up is a serious commitment. The community has really helped out. I want to see more kids get involved in this. Jordan loves every second of it."

Tickets may be purchased online at www.byrnesperformingarts.org, or through Flowers By George or Copy, Mail & More in downtown Arlington, at $15 for adults and $10 for students. "Media Overload" continues on March 4, 5 and 6.

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