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Commercial showcase brings alumni home

Homecoming 2012 arrived early for numerous Belmont alumni as they took the stage with some of Belmont’s finest current music students at the annual Commercial Music Showcase.

Monday marked the 20th anniversary of the showcase in Massey Concert Hall and the Belmont School of Music shared this milestone with many special guests.

Frank Rains, Jr., a ’92 Belmont graduate, hosted the evening. Along with introducing each act, the audience was able to get a taste of Rains’ comedic flair as he shared memories of his time at Belmont; living in Heron Hall, meeting his wife and playing Frisbee on the quad.

The show began with a performance of “The Living Proof” by alumni artists Melinda Doolittle and Becki Ryan. As Doolittle and Ryan returned to the MPAC stage, audience members gave them an appropriate homecoming with cheers and applause. These women have made quite a name for themselves after receiving their Belmont diplomas, both with bachelors of music in commercial voice with an emphasis in music business, voice.

Doolittle, a ’99 Belmont graduate, received national recognition on season six of American Idol. Her big and soulful sound has also taken her to the White House, the Musicians’ Hall of Fame, Carnegie Hall and now back to Belmont. After positive feedback on her first album, “Coming Back to You,” Doolittle has her sophomore album in the works.

Since graduating in 2001, Becki Ryan has done vocal work with Amy Grant, Hillary Duff, Clay Aiken, LuLu and Holly Vance. In addition to working with notable music artists, Ryan’s song “Alive” featured in the movie “Flicka.” She wrote the theme song “It’s a New Day” for NBC’s “Today Show,” as well as songs for Tresseme and KFC commercials.

The Commercial Showcase not only featured vocal performances from recent alumni, but also the instrumental talents of C.T. Blackmore, ’07, and Chris Gregg, ’02, on saxophone and Kory Caudill, ’09, playing piano.

Although these guest performances were highlights of the night, the ninety minute performance was designed to do just what the title intended, showcase the talents of four Belmont music students with different styles and acts but one common love for music.

First to take the stage was Nate Faulkner, a Belmont transfer student who has taken an interest in all kinds of music including country, blues, R&B and rap. Opening his act with what seemed like a traditional church choir, Faulkner literally sprang through his backup vocalist group to reveal a more urban look, rocking skinny jeans, a blue T-shirt, Nike high tops and a flat-billed snap back singing, “Nate’s Odyssey.”  Transitioning to a slower, more R&B/Rap style, Faulkner brought originality to Lil’ Wayne’s “How to Love” with a backdrop of female dancers in all-black outfits with matching pumps.  Faulkner finished out his set with the foot-tapping, “I Need a Dollar.”

As MPAC began to have standing room only in the back of the auditorium, Sarah Margaret Huff took the stage opening with “Voodoo Woman.” A junior commercial music major, Huff has high hopes of a career in the music industry as a songwriter, performer and/or publisher, all of which were shown through her performance of her original song, “Leave You Be.” Huff fearlessly took the stage and gave her audience a performance full of passion and easy listening. Her self-expression shown through her voice, as well as her wardrobe, flowing bell-bottoms and a corset-style blouse.  Huff left her audience with a performance of “Only Love.”

Third on the program was junior Ravyon Owen, both a commercial music major and starring in the Belmont’s spring musical performance of “Hairspray.” Ravyon has moved Former First Lady Laura Bush and the queen of England with his soulful and spiritual performances, and his Belmont audience was no different. With numerous roaring shout outs and comments like, “Take ‘em to church Ravyon!” his wide range of notes, tones and vocal runs had audience members on their feet, first pumping and praising like a church congregation. Concluding his set list of “Ain’t Nobody” and “Let Me Love You,” with “Sometimes I Cry,” Ravyon received a standing ovation as he belted out that last high note.

Senior Cody Fry wrapped up the showcase. This commercial music major has already created quite an impressive work experience list including writing an instrumental piece for the film “Ice Age 2” and composing jingles for Big Lots and McDonald’s commercials. Fry was honored with national attention recently for his arrangement of “The First Noel” performed at Christmas at Belmont in December 2011. Although starting off with some technical difficulties with his amps and guitars, Fry quickly made up for the hold up with his rendition of Paul Simon’s “Peace Like a River” and performances of two original songs titled, “Underground” and “Open the Gates.”

As Fry began singing the closing chorus of “Open the Gates,” all other showcase participants including alumni surrounded Fry to share the spotlight in front of Belmont students, parents, faculty and staff who quickly rose to their feet and gave them a standing ovation to close the first showcase of 2012.

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