Acoustic Wilton makes a return to the stage

 

Jeannette Ross Nicole Smirnov, left, Sarah Perry, Ryan Amodei and Jackie Cooke are new members of Acoustic Wilton. They will be onstage with the group Saturday for a concert at Wilton High School’s Little Theater.

Jeannette Ross
Nicole Smirnov, left, Sarah Perry, Ryan Amodei and Jackie Cooke are new members of Acoustic Wilton. They will be onstage with the group Saturday for a concert at Wilton High School’s Little Theater.

There is singing for your supper, but on Saturday, March 16, the student members of Acoustic Wilton will be singing for their schools.

The band — composed of students and adults — will perform a diverse lineup of music beginning at 7:30 p.m. in Wilton High School’s Little Theater. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased online at wiltoneducationfoundation.org. The concert is presented by the Wilton Education Foundation and will support arts education in Wilton public schools.

Student performers will be Quinn Reedy, Ian Filaski, Laura Knapp, Cole Smith, Wes Wallace, Peter McDowell, Ellie Mendola, Andrew Sakamoto, Will Comer, John DeElisa, Paulina Schaefer, Stephanie Hubli, Caitlin Witty, Forrest Rappaport, Ryan Amodei, Morgan Denslow, Jiffy Lesica, Megan Daversa, Sara Perry, Jackie Cooke, Elliot Connors, Tristan Clark, Nicole Smirnov, and Joe Wallace.

Adult performers will be Chris Brown, David Keefe, Joan Wallace, Amy Jonsson, Kim Troy, Lauren Mirabile, Patty Perry, Dan Berg, Barbara Daversa, Molly Mendola and Scott Weber, who founded Acoustic Wilton in 2009.

They will present 90 minutes of pop, adult contemporary, country, bluegrass, jazz, R&B, and folk, concluding with a mashup of Ho Hey by The Lumineers and Send Me on My Way by Rusted Root.

Four new student members this year are Ryan Amodei, Jackie Cooke, Sarah Perry, and Nicole Smirnov.

Nicole, a senior at Wilton High, has been singing ever since she could talk, and as a child, “I liked to sing better than talking,” she said.

Without ever taking any lessons, she auditioned for the television show The Voice, and made it to the final interview round. A fan of Adele, she will be singing one of her songs, Make You Feel My Love.

“Singing has always been an outlet for my emotions,” she said. “I like soulful songs. I feel a lot of Adele’s music, I can relate to her lyrics.”

Nicole said she has a big voice like Adele’s — “people say my voice doesn’t fit me” — but most of her friends never knew she sang because of “horrible stage fright.”

Still, that did not stop her from participating in Wilton Children’s Theater productions, the Crystal Theater in Norwalk, and earlier this school year in the Senior Show.

“When I’m on stage you can’t see anyone,” she said, explaining her ability to perform. Stage fright is not such a problem now, a fact she attributed partly to her rise in self-confidence after getting as far as she did with The Voice.

“I was afraid of people not liking my voice,” she said. “When I auditioned and got through to the final round, it gave me more confidence.”

Duet

With friends like Cole Smith, Forrest Rappaport, Andrew Sakamoto, and John DeElisa, it seems inevitable Ryan Amodei, a junior, would join them in Acoustic Wilton.

Ryan is a singer and a musician who plays guitar, ukulele, bass, and drums. He is also a member of the band Downstairs Mixup with Andrew, John, Joey Fraccarolli, and Ryan Brameier.

On Saturday night he will play lead guitar and sing backup with Forrest on All for You by Sister Hazel.

“I sing backup in the band,” he said. “I’ve never been a frontman.”

He will get that chance in a duet with his friend Jackie Cooke, a Wilton High sophomore who is also new to Acoustic Wilton.

“We’ve been friends since eighth grade and we said, Let’s try to do something.”

That something will be the Ho Hey portion of the finale.

Jackie, who says she got her musical talent from her father, is also a veteran of the stage through Wilton Children’s Theater and at Wilton High, where she was an orphan in last year’s production of Oliver! She is also in the school chorus.

“I’m a fan of The Lumineers and Ed Sheeran, nothing too pop sounding,” she said.

Her father, Tom Cooke, is a singer and plays guitar, mostly blues and Southern rock. “We’re good friends with musical families; at dinner parties we take out the guitars and it’s fun.”

All in the family

A fourth new member of the group is Sarah Perry, who also comes from a musical family. Her mother, Patty Perry, has a band, and when Sarah was young, she would “play” with them. Now she really will play with her mother as the two will perform The A Team by Ed Sheeran.

Sarah downloaded an acoustic version of the song because she likes to harmonize with it. Then she started singing it with her mother.

“We sing in the car a lot,” she said. “We were singing together and we sounded OK.” When it came time to pick a song for the concert, The A Team was it.

Play It Forward

This is the third year of Acoustic Wilton’s Play It Forward initiative, which has resulted in raising more than $15,000 for the schools through its concerts and sales of two CDs.

“The students are maturing and moving on, but there is a huge talent pool,” Scott Weber said.

With the cross-section of music to be presented Saturday, Mr. Weber said, “our goal is to say not only are the kids great, but look at their range. … One of my original passions for the singer-songwriters is to get them out in the spotlight.

“The whole point is to let them express themselves.”

That sentiment was echoed by Jackie. Of Acoustic Wilton she said, “It’s really great if you’re not in a band. At school, it’s not self-expression. You really get to see the talented people in this town. People you never knew were talented.”

Nicole agreed, saying when she looked at the names of people involved in Acoustic Wilton she realized she knew them but never knew they were musically inclined.

“I had no idea they sang or played instruments,” she said. “This is an awesome opportunity. There’s not so much to do performance-wise here. Plays involve acting and not everyone enjoys that.”

That’s the point, Mr. Weber said. “No one is performing in a way they would outside. There are kids who have bands, but they are performing with kids they don’t know. Friendships are developing.”

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