'Showcase' gives local musicians chance to show off


Recorder News Staff

The Winter Showcase XV brought in a few dozen professional musicians to Amsterdam Sunday, all of them natives to the region.

"It's a very friendly atmosphere and every body volunteers their time which is nice," said Stephanie Boice, one of the show's co-directors. "From the people who set up the stage to the people who do the reception, all of us, we're all just here for the beauty of music."

Boice said she was also happy to see different faces in the crowd.

"Sometimes with new faces of performers come new faces in the audience and that's always welcomed, so they will come back, too, I'm sure," she said.

For Boice, and co-director Margaret "Peg" Lazarou, the work for the showcase came in the form of getting the program together, contacting performers, and getting the United Presbyterian Church ready for the performances.

The final step is the order of the performers, which is always handled by Lazarou, Boice explained.

"I really count on her every year to do that because she just knows how to place the different acts," Boice said.

But for the performers, it was all about that personal practice time.

"They prepare themselves," Boice said, "and that's a really beautiful part of it."

Before going on for her performance that started the second-half of the program, Giovanna Savoie said getting the chance to perform in the showcase is a great opportunity.

"It shows how you've changed from the last time you've performed until now and some of the progress that you're making at school," she said.

Last year's winner of the Margaret Lazarou scholarship, Savoie completed her first semester at Schenectady County Community College for musical performance.

And though it's "a lot of work," it's what she wants to be doing.

Savoie sang "O Cessate di piagarmi" in the showcase, with Lazarou accompanying her on piano.

Joshua Thompson, a french horn player with a studio in Gloversville, said the turnout was phenomenal for the showcase and spoke highly of his great collaborative relationship with Boice.

"It's a really nice thing about a small community and the arts," Thompson said. "There's a lot (of talent) around here, and you wouldn't think, but when I've done stuff I have no problem ever. I have a huge list of people and they just want to play good music. They just want to have a great place to perform."

Thompson said the church where the showcase was held was a perfect space for such a performance.

After the nearly three-hour program, Patricia Valiante, choral director at Amsterdam High School who performed with her flute in the showcase, said it was a great event.

"It's such a wonderful atmosphere where everyone gets to show what they like. Some people like gospel music, some people like different types of music, and this showcase has everything," she said. "And this area is so loaded with talent."

Valiante said she most loved seeing former Amsterdam students back to perform.

A portion of the money from the evening went to the Margaret Lazarou scholarship fund, named after Lazarou, who Valiante said has been an important part of the Amsterdam community.

"She's been a fixture in this community for so many years and has helped countless young musicians on their way to their futures."

Sitting at a table during the reception were music enthusiasts, and first time showcase-goers from Amsterdam, John and Sheryl Langley.

"This was a pleasant way to spend a January afternoon," John said, adding that though he loved the entire program, his favorite performance was that of finale performer Alice Sorensen, an Amsterdam native who serves as a music director of a church in Valley Stream and is pursuing a master's degree in music therapy.

Sheryl said it was just great to see the local performers come together.

"There's so much talent in Amsterdam and it's been through the years," she said. "You come here and it's just breathtaking."