The show began with a performance of euphonium multiphonics and ended with an original, heartwarming song dedicated to the senior class. The energy was high, the judges were engaging and the talent was entertaining.
Seniors on Stage, the first talent show of its kind at BJU and sponsored by the Student Leadership Council, showcased 10 talented contestants from the student body on Saturday, Feb. 23, in Stratton Hall.
One week before the show, the SLC chose the 10 talents that would be performed from a total of 41 acts that tried out.
These top 10 talents had to be the best of the best, because the grand prize led to the place “where dreams come true”: two tickets to Disney World.
And Sam Stephens won this “magical” prize with his hilarious, original poem that included playful jokes about faculty and students on campus.
The SLC organized and managed the show, and pulled it off flawlessly, down to the details: from the graphics on the programs and judges’ table to the usher crew donning Mickey ears, from the social media hash tags to the glow sticks and beach balls floating throughout the audience (Dr. Bob Jones III even took part in serving beach balls into the crowd).
To begin the show, the hosts, dressed for the red carpet, took the stage. Senior class representatives Abbi Gregory and Andrew Buhr hosted the show and were personable and candid, introducing the judges and talents and interacting with the audience.
Judges Dr. Dan Olinger, chair of the Division of Bible, Miss Jane Smith, faculty member in the School of Education and Dr. Stephen Jones, president of the University, made their grand entrances through a dramatic cloud of smoke.
All three judges came with bubbly personalities, jokes and even a few sarcastic, but harmless, comments.
Junior orchestral instrument performance major Adam Gingery kicked off the display of talent with a unique style of playing his instrument called multiphonics. He explained to the judges that he sings and plays his euphonium simultaneously. The audience enjoyed the different sound, cheering and clapping when Gingery would start a new section of the music.
Olinger joked that it sounded like a combination of Mongolian throat singing and a dying goat.
“Do whales ever respond?” Jones asked.
Next up was Noah White, a sophomore business major and a black belt in karate. Smith asked White where he got his pajamas (his karate uniform), and he quickly responded that he found them at J.C. Penny, but that Smith probably couldn’t find a pink belt for herself.
For his talent, White broke three wooden boards with the assistance of audience member Steven Andronovich, a junior biology major.
Next, White set two bricks parallel one to the other on the ground and placed a brick slab across the top. In order to demonstrate that the bricks were quite sturdy, White asked Olinger to stand on the slab of brick, and it didn’t budge. After Olinger stepped off the brick, White broke the brick slab in two pieces using one hand.
TJ Cornelius, a junior youth ministries major, followed White with an extreme balancing act. Cornelius balanced different items on his nose and forehead, including a soccer ball on top of a bottle, a plastic hanger, a hula hoop and an umbrella. For his last trick, he balanced a chair on his head with a stuffed Brody the Bruin bear perched on the chair.
Next was the winning talent of Sam Stephens, a senior engineering major. The audience may have been skeptical when Stephens said he was going to recite a poem, but after he uttered the first three lines of his original story, he had everyone captivated.
Stephens was animated in his delivery, pausing for the crowd to laugh and cheer — a frequent occurrence in this act. He poked fun at the happenings on campus and impersonated faculty members, even Jones and Dr. Bob III. It was all in good fun, of course, and he left a memorable impression with both the judges and audience.
To close the first half of the show, Patrick Avery, a senior chemistry major and Caleb Ketler, a sophomore premed major, performed a medley of Disney songs. Ketler sang, and Avery accompanied on the ukulele. The judges enjoyed their peppy sound and song selections.
Kyle Mayfield, a senior biology major, began the second half of the show with a humorous juggling act. He first juggled balls, then rings and then bowling pins. To top off his act, Mayfield juggled two apples and an egg. Within 10 seconds, he ate one of the apples without stopping his juggling pattern. In the end, he ended up with egg on his face — literally.
The judges asked Mayfield if he had ever been injured when juggling the bowling pins. “Actually, the rings are the ones you have to watch out for,” he said. “They have sharp edges.”
The next act perhaps made students a little afraid to grow old. The “Senile Sisters” sang “My Favorite Things,” with a senior citizen twist. The group included Megan White and Miranda Wells, junior dramatic production majors and Rachel Georges, a sophomore performance studies major. The “grannies” had canes, dentures and a wheel chair. They were sure to claim that they were the real “seniors” on stage.
Stephanie Steeves, a junior early childhood education major, told a rendition of “The Three Little Pigs” that poked fun at the way we speak English today. In her spirited delivery, she spoke using Elizabethan language of Shakespeare’s time. Steeves had the audience laughing throughout the story. The judges loved her act and said she would make an excellent teacher.
The next talent put some class in the sport of baseball. The act, “Play Ball,” featured four girls at a baseball game, playing to the tune of their violins: Shannon Wood, a senior piano performance major; Rebekah Ervin, a sophomore accounting major; Sarah Ervin, a sophomore communication disorders major; and Kaylin Pagliarini, a sophomore orchestral instrument performance major.
The girls even used their violins to hit two balls into the audience.
Jones especially liked the classiness the four girls added to the baseball game. “And none of you spat,” he said.
Sebastian Erakare, a sophomore studio art major, was the final act of the show. He sang a song he wrote and dedicated to the senior class while playing his guitar. The touching song spoke of students’ years in college — how they go by too quickly. Erakare was definitely an audience favorite.
After the 10 contestants performed, the judges deliberated to choose the top three finalists. Erakare and the duo-singing act of Avery and Ketler joined Stephens in the top three.
To choose the grand prizewinner of two tickets to a Disney World park of choice, audience members got out their phones and voted for their favorite act via a text-in service.
Buhr and Gregory handed it off to Jones to announce the final results. Avery and Ketler placed third, winning a Bruins gift pack. Erakare placed second and won a gift certificate to Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
Balloons and streamers showered Stephens when he was announced as the winner. Gregory and Buhr then presented him with two giant Disney tickets.
After the conclusion of the show, students flooded the stage to snap pictures with the contestants and especially the three “celebrity” judges.
Stephens was thrilled that he won the competition, but also simply enjoyed the experience. “This was the most fun I’ve had in a while,” he said.
Stephens explained that he had previously written poems like the one he performed for Seniors on Stage, so the memorization process was something he had grown accustomed to. He said he generated mental ideas about his poem for a couple of weeks and then sat down to write and put it together in a story line with rhyme.
Buhr was also thrilled by the whole night and had a great experience as co-host. “Everyone was a success, from the audience to the judges to the talent,” he said.
Both Olinger and Smith had high praises for the show as well. Still wearing his toupee (part of his celebrity judge costume), Olinger had only positive things to say about all aspects of the show. “Great variety, great ability, great execution, great management,” he said. “The crowd came to have fun, and that’s what they did.”
Smith, with her sparkling outfit that matched her shimmering personality, loved participating in the event. “[It was] delightful,” she said. “I loved the whole spirit. The spirit in the building was amazing.”
And Jones especially found the spirit to be remarkable. “I think other than Gold Rush Daze and the opening Bruins games, this [was] the most energy and excitement from the student body,” he said. “It was a blast.”
The SLC introduced a great event to the university family through Seniors on Stage, and it was all to give back. All proceeds of the event will go toward the senior gift: a bronze statue of Brody the Bruin in honor of the inaugural athletic seasons.