California State University Northridge’s Joshua Wentz gave his students and local artists a chance to shine at the Classic Cole Porter concert held at the Santa Clarita United Methodist Church on April 15.
Wentz said the event aimed to both give performers some experience on stage and provide entertainment to local residents without them having to drive to Los Angeles.
“Part of my mission as a citizen of Santa Clarita is just to put my tentacles on as many things as I can and try to bring that tradition back up here,” said Wentz. “People have to go to L.A. and when people go to a concert like this, they’re paying a ton of money to go down to LA and fight the traffic, pay for parking … and we can have the same caliber of programs in Santa Clarita for a fraction of the cost.”
Wentz, a vocal instructor at CSUN, said giving these opportunities to perform helps the students combat stage fright and makes the experience of being on stage less daunting. What better way to do that, Wentz asks, than performing the work of one of the greatest stage and film composers of the 20th century.
Porter rose to prominence in the 1920s by infusing jazz and Broadway musical theater to produce an “Americana” sound — a practice still done today. Having friends and mentors such as Irving Berlin helped catapult him to fame and transitioned him into the film industry as well.
The ensemble at SCUMC played some of his biggest hits including “Anything Goes,” “I Hate Men,” and “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.”
Alexei Helmbock, a baritone performer in the concert, said he could not turn down a chance to perform Porter’s work and that watching his peers progress was gratifying.
“I just think it was a lot of fun and Cole Porter has always been one of my personal favorites. So this was not a difficult thing to convince me to sing,” said Helmbock. “I think the performance in general worked quite well. I got to hear some people who … made great strides into where they got to in their performances. So that made me smile a lot.”
As an educator, Wentz said there was a lesson being taught in every concert he helps organize.
“We teach students about music, and how to sing, and we try to teach them how to perform but really, there’s no way to learn how to perform except by doing it and getting opportunities to fight the stage fright and to get in front of a crowd and you know your words,” said Wentz. “But that’s a learned skill and the more we can do it … then they actually can go out and have a career in music and not feel terrified when they step on stage.”
Performers were from Wentz’s studio and featured special guests from the studio of Hugo Vera, director of Vocal Arts and Opera at CSUN.