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Talent show puts focus on youth, arts

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John Corey III at the 2016 Celebration of Youth Expression Program at the Greenville Town Common on May 7, 2016.

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Kristin Zachary

Friday, May 19, 2017

A talent show on Saturday at the Town Common will showcase not only Greenville and Pitt County’s gifted youth but also the importance of involvement in the arts.

The Celebration of Youth Expression Talent Show, scheduled for 5-8 p.m., got its start three years ago after organizer Lillian Outterbridge approached Greenville Recreation and Parks Director Gary Fenton with an idea to showcase young people, ages 5 to 19, who have talents in song, dance, playing musical instruments, creating visual art, acting, writing and reciting poetry and more.

A former schoolteacher, Outterbridge said she noticed a lot of young people had nothing to do after school or on weekends.

“I said, ‘Gosh, there’s got to be something we can do to help these kids so they stay out of trouble,’” she said. “It just dawned on me. A lot of these kids have talents. I knew that because when I was a teacher at D.H. Conley, there were a lot of young people who had talents, but you would not know it because they would not participate in the activities, the clubs and the organizations where their talent would be displayed.”

The event, sponsored by the Celebration of Youth Expression (COYE) Citizen Committee and Greenville Recreation and Parks, provides a creative outlet for young people and helps them in their educational efforts, according to committee member Jackie Simmons-DeLoatch.

“There have been so many studies that show that even if a child starts to take a musical course or play an instrument, it will increase their cognitive abilities,” she said. “They say that when children play instruments, they do better in math. I can understand why, because if you can look at a piece of paper and interpret musical notes, your mind can make those musical notes come back to your fingers or to your voice, then that is a cognitive ability that everyone does not have.

“It can’t do anything but increase their educational performance,” Simmons-DeLoatch said. “We really want the community to see that this is very important. We want to encourage children to continue in the arts, and we also want to show Greenville what our youth are doing.”

Her 10-year-old son, Harrison, will participate in the show, with a poetic spoken word and song performance. Also performing are several dance acts, a step team and a 7-year-old classical piano player, among others. King Tiger Tae Kwon Do will have 14 or 15 members perform. At least 16 acts total are expected.

The evening will include not only performing arts, but visual arts, with pieces on display from youth who submitted their artwork ahead of the event.

In previous years, the visual arts pieces were on display, but the artists were not showcased, Outterbridge said.

“This year, we decided we wanted to introduce those kids the same way we introduce the performing arts students,” she said. “After all, they spent a lot of time on their work, so why not?”

Outterbridge’s husband, Freddie, a former arts teacher, works with the visual artists.

After the first year, the Outterbridges and others on the COYE committee decided the effort should not only focus on the young people’s talents but also on helping them improve life skills.

“When we have the auditions, we talk to them not just about their talent,” she said, “but we talk with them about other things: how to present yourself, smile, enjoy what you are doing, how to communicate with people, articulate. That’s what our goal has been.”

The group also works with the youth on their stage presence and relies on sponsors in the community to make the event and life lessons happen.

“We just want it to continue,” Outterbridge said, “because it’s worth it.”

Contact Kristin Zachary at kzachary@reflector.com or 252-329-9571. Follow her on Twitter @kristinzachary.