Ocean City jazz bassist Tim Lekan was surprised by the songwriting talent he encountered during a visit earlier this year to the Charter-Tech High School for the Performing Arts.
Hearing the students at the Somers Point school sing and play their original material led Lekan to begin thinking of ways of gaining an audience for the young entertainers. The result is a regular Young Musicians Night one Monday per month at Sandi Pointe Coastal Bistro in Somers Point. Charter-Tech students were the only performers for the first session in May, but the event is open to all area young people. It gives them the rare forum to have their songwriting heard by an audience willing to listen.
"I was thrilled, and I think the kids were real happy, too. They made some great music. The audience was respectful and appreciative. Dan Anderson (the restaurant's co-owner) was very happy with it and so was I," said Lekan about the night that leaned heavily toward folk-like singer-songwriters.
Bridgette Walker, 18, of Somers Point, was one of the students who impressed Lekan.
Walker started writing original songs last year because she couldn't find music that really fit her voice. She and vocal music classmate Lindsey Evans started singing their songs during school showcases last year. The vocal music teacher, Jean Immler, heard their original work and wanted to see if any of her other students wanted to write as well.
It was the vocal music ensemble students' compositions that Lekan heard. They had written multiple songs during the school year.
When Walker sang her two songs last month at Sandi Pointe, "Understand" on piano, and "Reprise" on guitar, it was the first time she'd played the tunes outside of a school setting.
"Usually, when you perform at school, there are people we do not know in the audience, but they are usually your friends' parents or the family of your friends," said Walker, who will attend Howard University in Washington, D.C., this fall where she will major in music education. "These people were complete strangers and had no idea who we were. It was nice."
Adrianna Hill, 16, was excited to be able to sing her original songs publicly last month. The Galloway Township teen sang her original compositions "Home" and "Dreams."
Hill, who will be a Charter-Tech junior this fall, never showed her songs to anyone outside her vocal class.
"I was surprised that someone actually liked our stuff so much that they wanted to get us out into the real world," Hill said. "I think it went over really well. I was surprised how they took to my songs and how they really enjoyed them, everyone's songs."
Anderson took a chance by turning over his restaurant for two hours to amateur teen musicians and singers, but he enjoyed it.
"Those kids were awesome. We're on the right track," said Anderson, who estimates at least 40 adults were in attendance for the first session. "I look at it as a recital ... They are kids up there, giving it a shot, giving it a try. They have to start somewhere."
Contact Vincent Jackson:
Young Musicians' Night
Held 7 to 9:45 p.m. Monday in the Ballroom at Sandi Pointe Coastal Bistro, 908 Shore Road, Somers Point. Monday's performers include Full Metal Jacket from Marmora, the group Either Way from the Atlantic City area and songwriters from Charter-Tech. Admission is free. For information, call 609-927-2300. Amateur preteen and teen artists interested in participating should email Tim Lekan at email@example.com