On Friday night, fans, friends, alumni and family celebrated ´Til Dawn’s 25th anniversary with an incredible virtual concert, raising nearly $9,000 for its scholarship fund.
The virtual SING OUT! was a beautiful commemoration of 25 years of ´Til Dawn. TD alums Delta Rae and Drew Gasparini were the event’s headliners. Delta Rae’s uplifting four-song performance showcased their “gospel-tinged country-rock, sensual blue-eyed soul and harmony-laden Americana” roots. Drew’s playful, intimate three-song performance was pop/rock perfection, and Lily Elise, Jessie Land, Matt Herrero, and Harmela Beyene each contributed jaw-dropping one-song features that demonstrated the vitality and talent of Still Dawn, ´Til Dawn’s alumni. Happnstance, which includes TD alums Sean Simerly and Maria Pougiales-Posey, warmed up the audience with a pre-show performance.
The event also featured five wonderful videos ´Til Dawn recorded while sheltering in place, a stirring retrospective for the pre-COVID 2019 group, and heartwarming collaboration between ´Til Dawn and Still Dawn on John Legend’s If You’re Out There.
“Under normal circumstances, at the SING OUT! we’re singing together in person. It’s part celebration, part concert, part community event,” said longtime director Austin Willacy. “Though we couldn’t be together in place this year, we knew we had to find a way to celebrate 25 years of ‘Til Dawn, and with the collaboration of a killer team, we created something so good I’m still coming down from the high of it.”
Besides the excellent music, several current group members and alumni spoke about the impact of ´Til Dawn on their lives in high school, and as adults.Some spoke about the value of learning to speak and perform in public, as well as learning to give and receive feedback. Nearly everyone said they had made lifelong friends.
They also spoke about what they had learned from their mentor and director Austin. Austin, a singer/songwriter who records as a solo artist and with The House Jacks, has led the group for more than 20 years.
“I am who I am today because of this group and Austin,” said ´Til Dawn singer Anna McShea. “He has encouraged me to be my most authentic self.”
Another ´Til Dawn singer, Ian Sotnick, said the experience has taught him “more than any school can teach in a lifetime.”
Photo credits: Delta Rae photo, Shervin Lainez; Austin Willacy photo, Tim Porter
Our first ever `Til Dawn Sing Out at the Fenix on Sunday, December 29 in San Rafael was a great success, with two performances featuring smiles, laughter and an extraordinary array of vocal talent. The event and related alumni fundraising campaign also brought in nearly $4,000 to benefit Youth in Arts programs for teen artists.
The Sing Out was inspired by Mentor Artist Austin Willacy’s experience with The Dartmouth Aires as an undergraduate. Austin wanted to create an annual event that convenes the community of current members and alumni in a way that allows them to connect (or reconnect) with each other and make music.
‘Til Dawn’s first Sing Out brought together current `Til Dawn students and almost 40 alumni, many of whom are working artists, in town for the winter holidays.
New York-based musical theater composer Drew Gasparini and L.A. vocalist Lily Elise performed sets at both shows. Drew shared an impromptu mix of original compositions and familiar medleys, accompanying himself on guitar and chatting amicably with the audience. As he prepared to launch into one tune with “Here is something you all know…” a young fan in the front row shouted out “The ABC Song!” causing Drew to lead the audience in a sing-along of the alphabetical classic.
Lily performed with accompaniment on guitar by Sean Simerly, another `Til Dawn alum. Demonstrating the powerful vocals and heartfelt style that took her to the finals of NBC’s The Voice, she shared beautiful original songs inspired by personal challenges and triumphs.
In addition to donating their performances, alumni artists also helped raise funds for `Til Dawn scholarships and other Youth in Arts teen programs with an online fundraiser leading up to the Sing Out event throughout December and repeated pitches for donations during the show. Speaking of how they had benefitted from `Til Dawn themselves and especially of the value to teens of an amazing mentor like Austin, the group encouraged audiences to support current students with their contributions. The event raised a combined total of $3,900 for Youth in Arts.
Even more impressive, “Still Dawn” was able to perform with only minimal rehearsal hours—testimony to the fact that many `Til Dawn alum are still working artists who sing professionally on a regular basis. Rehearsal was a fun part of the experience, lasting late into the evening with many of the performers seeing each other for the first time in years.
We thank our fabulous alumni artists and current students for all their work in creating the Sing Out and raising funds to support the arts. We look forward to next year!
Scroll down for a gallery of photos by Peter Rodgers from the “Still Dawn” reunion/rehearsal at Youth in Arts.
Click here for video from the Fenix of the Sing Out performances