BETHEL — Music teacher and coach, MacKenzie Richard was at The Gem on Thursday, 12/8,  to coach kids on their performances. She gave them pointers on how to perform in front of an audience – how to stand, hold the microphone and especially how to project. Going forward, she will be there for every open stage night. BAAM (Bethel Area Arts and Music) Youth Open Stage is the second Thursday of every month.

Althea Weisberger, of Bethel, performs Love Story at the Gem. Music coach, MacKenzie Richard, on right. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

First to receive performance help was Althea Weisberger, 8, of Bethel, who sang Taylor Swift’s “Love Story,” while wearing a full Santa get-up: red dress, hat and striped leggings. Richard listened carefully, then responded,  “remember the microphone is just helping you. That voice is coming from your belly … You want someone all the way across the room to hear you.” Urged to try it without music, Weisberger was apprehensive, then bravely proceeded.

On the stage was a giant teleprompter that, at the feet of the young performers, helped them to remember the words. The room felt festive with a projected scene of falling snow filling the background and colorful stage lights.

Open Stage at the Gem Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

Working with Weisberger and Labby Salmon, 11, of Hanover, Richard said, “When those long verses come you want to kind of hold your breath so you can keep pushing that air out, so you don’t have to gasp for breath between words.”

Using do-re-mi they practiced the feeling on their ribcages, trying to project to the back of the auditorium. “Oh my goodness that’s the volume I want to hear … that sounded so good,” said Richard.

Salmon took the stage next and sang, “Honey I’m Good,” with Richard slapping her thigh to help with the fast beat. With Weisberger, controlling a nearby laptop, Salmon performed the song three times at different tempos, trying to get the one that felt right. She got it on the last try.


Natalie Philip, on right, with friends, Open Stage at the Gem Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

Natalie Philip, 11, munching on Harbo peaches candy (that she admitted didn’t warm up her voice and probably made it worse), sat in front watching Salmon while waiting for her friends, Maisy Johnston, 11, and Parker Gilman, 12. She had performed  in original musicals in her former town of Vinyl Haven and at camp. Her mom was a former drama teacher. “Sometimes I just break out in song. I love to sing. I’ve been singing since I was a little kid,” she said.

Salmon’s older sister seemed to take to heart, Richard’s advice that, “sometimes it’s easier to find our voice, when there’s another voice (to sing beside).” Blakley Salmon, 16, joined her sister on stage then quickly decided she’d do a solo, too.

“Because, yes, I’m a teenager and teenagers tend to get embarrassed and not do these kind of things, but I changed my mind because my little sister went up on stage and started singing. She gave me the confidence. I’m definitely nervous, but I’m gonna be fine. I’m performing in front of  kids and adults. I don’t know anyone, so I’m happy about that,” said Salmon.

Richard told her she had ‘good pitch.’ “That helped, too,” she said.

Professional musician, Buffalo Nichols worked with local children later on Thursday night. The following night, 12/9 he held his own performance.
Mackenzie Richard teaches music at Woodstock and Crescent Park elementary schools and now as a coach for BAAM.

Open Stage at the Gem Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

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