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
We are thrilled to welcome long-time Youth in Arts supporter, Janine Simerly to our board! Janine’s youngest son, Sean Simerly of Happnstance joined Youth in Arts’ Til Dawn A Capella group when he was a sophomore in high school. Janine remembers his experience fondly, “Sean had a lot of interests. He was a busy kid. Without doubt, the thing that ‘lit him up’ like no other was ‘Til Dawn. It was, from my vantage point, the most transformative experience of his high school years. He learned so much, not just about music and voice and harmonies (and beat boxing). ‘Til Dawn embodied everything that is wonderful about a team sport — without the orthopedic injuries.
One of the greatest joys in my life was attending ‘Til Dawn performances and watching these kids grow and blossom over the years, from nervous, awkward kids into seasoned professionals, so comfortable on stage with a mic in their hands.”
She also has a tremendous amount of respect for ‘Til Dawn director and mentor, Austin Willacy. “Austin Willacy is incredible. The man is a genius. He not only taught these kids about music and discipline. He also taught them to support and love one another. I could go on and on.”
Janine, a partner at the Miller Law Group in San Francisco, plans to bring her incredible energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the YIA Board, as well as, “an irreverent sense of humor. Sometimes that comes in handy.” Her goals as a YIA board member are to be, “a productive and valuable member of the board. To contribute. And hopefully pay back a little of what YIA has given to me (and Sean) over the years.” We feel very lucky to have her on our team!
Growing up in New Orleans, Janine had access to a well rounded arts education that included visual art, theatre, and music. Though she doesn’t consider herself an “artist” today, she is an avid gardner, champion Chili-maker, and she loves to sing and perform. “In my high school and college days, I had a blast performing in musicals. I’m told that I really nail ‘Big Spender’ from Sweet Charity.” We’re hoping she’ll grace us with a performance very soon.
Thank you, Janine!
We had another terrific installment of the `Til Dawn SING OUT! our annual alumni concert and fundraiser at the renowned Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Nearly 200 audience members enjoyed two great sets from Happnstance, featuring `Til Dawn alums Sean Simerly and Maria Pougiales-Posey with Danielle Bezalel.
We also had great performances from this year’s current `Til Dawn ensemble along with “Still Dawn” our chorus of alumni home for the holidays, singing hits from the `Til Dawn repertoire. All 50+ alumni, including Happnstance, donated their performances, helping us to raise $5,700, even more than we did at last year’s event! Thank you! Several alums, including Emily Kibbe, James Barton and our current Student Board Member Rose Myers also spoke from the stage about how much the valued the `Til Dawn experience and Austin Willacy’s mentorship.
We were also excited that our generous audience helped us “make to to 2018” by donating or pledging $2018 in honor of the new year–thank you so much to all who made this possible!
We would especially like to thank Entelo for their sponsorship and our `Til Dawn Scholarship Campaign Leadership Circle–David and Janine Simerly, Rick and Suzanne Herrero and Linda Sudduth and Buck Smith.
Youth in Arts is able to offer up to 100% scholarship aid to any student who passes the audition process, thanks to generous donors like these. If you’d like to make a donation to `Til Dawn to support our scholarship fund and our program in general, you can do that here.
Thanks again to all who made it to this year’s event–we look forward to seeing you again soon!
Meanwhile, enjoy this video of alum Sean Simerly and `Til Dawn member Will Salaverry singing “Steal My Kisses” with “Still Dawn” (Thanks, Linda Sudduth for the video!) You can find a few more on our Youth in Arts YouTube channel here.
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