Home Local News Oak Lawn’s Teen Showcase lets young musicians show off skills

Oak Lawn’s Teen Showcase lets young musicians show off skills

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Oak Lawn’s Teen Showcase lets young musicians show off skills

“Like Nirvana, but worse.”

That is how Joey Fraider, of Chicago Ridge jokingly described his band Red Adrenaline before taking the stage for a Teen Showcase on recently at Oak Lawn’s Village Green. It was just the second live performance for the trio, which also features Gryphon Winston, of Oak Lawn, and James O’Farrell, of Alsip.

“Two months ago, my boss never left my room,” Winston said. “Now, I’m out here on stage. For me, it’s extremely scary, but once I hit that first note we all go into it hard.”

The band cited influences from across rock genres. They performed covers from the likes of The Ramones and Jimmy Eat World and mixed in a few originals, including one about working retail.

“We were the kids that didn’t fit in anywhere else,” Fraider said. “We came together. … We all clicked very well.”

Giving musical artists such as Red Adrenaline a stage in their own community is a big part of why Oak Lawn added the Teen Showcase for the first time last year to its Sunday Concerts on the Green summer series. Gincy Hartin, the Oak Lawn arts and events commissioner who curates the showcase, said it is a great way to let teens know they are valued and the village is prioritizing their growth and development.

“It’s a great experience,” Hartin said. “It’s a great way to get positive reinforcement from others — just to have the opportunity to play in front of a live audience. Some of them have limited opportunities, just being young and at a point where they’re just getting started or haven’t had a lot of experience playing. It really means a lot to them to be able to do this showcase.”

Lost Me, a solo artist from Oak Lawn, was among those grateful to have the opportunity to play the showcase. He found a guitar in a closet and learned how to play it, finding inspiration in the likes of Elliott Smith, The Microphones and Modest Mouse.

“I think expression is really important, especially for young people,” he said. “For me this is a really big step. A lot of people that I know and love are going to be here.”

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Cami Ann, of Oak Lawn, also performed with just a guitar in hand, showcasing her singing and songwriting abilities. She started with a toy ukulele before moving on to guitar. She originally performed favorites, then began rewriting lyrics before creating music from scratch.

“I’ve always loved music,” she said. “I got that from my dad. We definitely bond over bands and music and albums and the history of music, especially. It just spun from there.”

Her set included a mix of covers that ranged from Taylor Swift to Green Day. She also performed a rendition of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” for her mother, and worked some original songs into the mix.

Jacie Strelow, a singer from Oak Lawn, closed down the show. Strelow said she always loved music growing up, following in the footsteps of a singer and guitarist grandfather, as well as a great-grandmother who was a musician.

“I always loved music when I was growing up,” Strelow said. “I was a terrible singer when I was a child.”

But she took voice lessons and joined every choir she could. Now, she sings at farmers markets, open mics, coffee shops and school. Strelow has been working with Hartin on some music, and she also performed cover songs at the Teen Showcase.

“It’s awesome,” Strelow said of singing in front of her community. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Hartin said the concert series helps Oak Lawn be seen as a place that is hospitable to live music and entertainment. The Teen Showcase, in particular, was designed to feature Oak Lawn residents or teens who attend Oak Lawn schools, he added.

“The idea is to have it be an opportunity for our local teens, our local talent, to showcase their abilities,” he said.

Oak Lawn Trustee Paul Mallo, who helped introduce the evening’s program, said the village tries to get a good mix of entertainers for the Sunday schedule and last year installed new lights. The Sunday Concerts on the Green series means a lot to the community, he added.

“They love to come out for free concerts,” Mallo said. “They’re here early. They always want more music.”

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Many in attendance said they are regulars for the Sunday Concerts on the Green, and the Teen Showcase had an added level of intrigue, promising a variety of styles and up-and-coming talents.

“I know it’s not the professional musicians they’re used to seeing, but just to give these kids an opportunity to perform in front of unknowns is pretty cool,” Mallo said. “I hope they appreciate that opportunity.”

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Natalie Shillim, of Orland Park, was one of the Sunday regulars. She has been coming to the concerts for the past few years and enjoys the music. She was not about to skip this one just because it featured amateur against musicians.

“They probably play good music; Why don’t you go?” Shillim said. “It’s a sunny night, nice day.”

Hope Pittenger, of Lyons, was sitting near the front and center of the gazebo that served as the evening’s stage to see Red Adrenaline. She met the band through Instagram and friends before coming to Concerts on the Green. She was not disappointed.

“I’m so excited,” Pittenger said. “I just heard them and it’s so amazing.”

Boy Scout Troop 596, as it has done for years, offered refreshments in an effort to bring more children into Scouting, as well as raise funds for programs and equipment. Oak Lawn Park District Commissioner Daniel Johnson said it all added up to a nice summer evening for the community in a series that has bounced back in a big way.

“We’ve got a bunch of people out here after everyone was locked down for two years,” Johnson said. “It’s nice to see everybody get out and listen to some good music.”

Bill Jones is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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